Universal Music Group declined to renew its yearlong deal to license songs to Apple Inc. in the most public clash to date between a record label and the top retailer of digital music.
The largest of the four major labels informed Apple last week, people familiar with the matter said Monday.
Universal has no plans to stop selling music over Apple's iTunes music store, which sells a majority of digitized tracks in the U.S., the people said.
But top Universal executives wanted the right to offer exclusive tracks to other Web retailers that could emerge, such as Amazon.com.
Under the previous deal with Apple, Universal was obliged to sell on iTunes any music it sold digitally elsewhere.
Warner Music Group could take a similar stand when its licensing deal with Apple expires in the coming months, industry executives said.