In an announcement today, Music Reports Inc. revealed an agreement made with Microsoft to "administer the music publishing licensing and royalty accounting for the Zune Pass subscription service in the United States."
The use of an outside music licensing house isn't a new move for Microsoft and its Zune music services. Nonetheless, the change in firms points to shortcomings in the previous arrangement, evidenced perhaps by the disappearing music snafu. Microsoft has yet to comment on the new partnership officially.
The international expansion of the Zune music services, by way of the upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series, may also play a role Microsoft's new hire. The statement from Music Reports specifically says its role is limited to the United States. Microsoft is likely working with multiple international partners to ramp up the Zune music service for their its mobile OS.
The hurdles of licensing a subscription music service in multiple countries is a daunting task. Similar subscription services, such as Rhapsody and Slacker, have a limited scope outside the U.S., due to the expense and complexity of arranging the required licensing and publishing agreements. Only Napster has successfully tied up music subscription deals in both the U.S. and Europe.