Independent record labels in the UK, France and Germany have signed licensing deals with Sony for the company’s launch of its Connect digital music store in those countries next month. Reuters reports that “the deal comes as Sony races to launch in Europe ahead of Apple’s leading iTunes Music Store, which may have the necessary licensing contracts to launch in Europe by the middle of next month, according to sources familiar with Apple’s plans.” Apple only says that it will open a European version of the store sometime this year.