Internet, recorded music
Apple Music has reversed its (non) payment policy, a day after the singer Taylor Swift said she was refusing to allow the company to stream her album 1989 because the computer and music giant were offering no royalties in a three month launch period free trial period for subscribers. Indepdent record labels and their trade bodies including AIM (UK), A2IM (US), UFPI (France) and VUT (Germany) had already voiced their critcims. Now Apple says it will pay artists for music streamed during trial periods. “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple,” tweeted executive Eddy @Cue. Swift had said the plan was “unfair”, arguing Apple had the money to cover the cost and AIM CEO Alison Wenham had written to AIM members to encourage them to “make their own decision” about Apple Music – but criticised the new streaming service for essentially “asking the independent music sector to hedge its risk, to fund their customer acquisition programme and to shoulder the financial burden for their global launch.”
George Chin writes
On Monday 8th June, Apple launched its music streaming service, aptly named – Apple Music – at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (where else) in San Francisco. Introduced by the rapper Drake and Beats Music co-founder Jimmy Iovine. Apple Music will roll out in 100 countries at the end of June i.e. next week. Initially announced, after a three month trial, the service will cost $9.99 a month or $14.99 for a family plan for up to six people.
Apple Music is combination service – first, a streaming on-demand service of millions of songs and videos; secondly a 24-hour radio station called Beats 1 curated by former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe; and thirdly Connect, a music-focused social network, a cross between Facebook and Soundcloud, where artists can connect with their fans by uploading and posting videos, music, photos and comments.
A storm of controversy has raged over the three month free trial. At first, Apple said that during this period, no artists will be paid for music streamed. At issue is Apple Music’s 90-day free trial, which effectively cuts out any revenue from streams during that time period. According to Merlin, the 650-member-strong global digital rights agency, Apple has stated that no fees will be collected or disbursed from users during the trial period.
By June 17th,2015 – Martin Mills of the Beggars Group in a posting on their website, questioned why they, their artists, and other rights owners should bear the cost of Apple Music’s customer acquisition. Moreover, the label worried that the Apple move would result in more free music, and thus less revenue for rights owners. He also questioned whether the majors and their artists would also be participating in the free trial period and foregoing payments; voicing concerns raised by other independent label groups – AIR and A2IM.
By June 21st,2015 – Taylor Swift had entered the fray with an open letter to Apple Music that she would be “holding back” her million selling album 1989 from the new Apple streaming service, explaining that on behalf of her fellow musicians who were hesitant to speak out against the tech giant:
“These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much,” she wrote. “We simply do not respect this particular call.”
The letter continues: “Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done”.
And ends: “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation”.
Within hours, on the same day, Apple Senior Vice President, Eddy Cue tweeted that artists would now be paid on a per-stream basis during the free trial. He did not specify how much that would be, since Apple Music won’t be bringing in any revenue at that point.
The unexpectedly prompt climb down by Apple has elevated Taylor Swift in the eyes of her fans as a heroine for the rights of the struggling musician and by June 23rd, it was reported that previous doubters, Merlin and Beggars Group, had now signed up for Apple Music.
Cynics have remarked that Apple have gained worldwide publicity over the 90-day free trial which can only benefit its soon to be launched Apple Music.
© George Chin 2015