A very interesting take on Universal offering DRM-free music directly instead of through iTunes. I think the writer is on target in describing the motives of Universal in cutting Apple out as a distribution channel.
If memory serves, the big record companies tried to push Apple into variable pricing not long ago. That move didn’t seem to work, as the 99-cent single is alive and well on iTunes.
The idea of Apple signing artists directly is an interesting one, but I don’t see Apple signing artists anytime soon. Artist management is quite far afield from what they do best. It might violate their recent deal with Apple Corps too. That said, if Apple could make it easier and cheaper for indie bands to put their music out without violating that deal, they’d probably make some money they aren’t currently getting. It might even help them sell more iPods (which is really the whole point of iTunes anyway).