By: The Busted Amp Staff
JOSEPH: So, let's talk about the big issue rattling everyone's brains right now: Apple Music. As you know, there's been a lot of controversy surrounding this new streaming service. The biggest of which was the controversy surrounding the issue of royalties (or lack there of) due to artists during the service's 3-month trial period. A contract was leaked by the record industry that said that no royalties whatsoever would be paid to artists, labels, or anyone while us, the listener, was using the trial period of the service. Or if someone was given the service for free from Apple. The timing would be killer: the 3-month trial period would kill indie artists everywhere that release their music before the holiday season. Traditionally, the holiday season is when major artists drop new albums, and as a result indies tend to avoid this time because, as much as I'd like to think Kishi Bashi can compete with Beyonce, he cannot. So all of their new music would be streamed to no end on Apple Music, and they wouldn't see a dime of revenue for it. Additionally, there were reports of Apple threatening smaller labels and artists, saying, "If you don't put your music on Apple Music, we're going to remove it from iTunes." This would obviously kill smaller artists, as their biggest revenue stream digitally is still purchases on iTunes. However, Taylor Swift recently used her power as an extremely influential artist to write an open letter to Apple vowing to never put her music on the site because of these tactics. Then, suddenly, Apple changed its mind. Now, they will pay royalties during the trial period, however I'm not convinced everything is now perfect in Cupertino.
I'm about to kick it over to you, Derek, but I wanna throw up a few quick thoughts to get us going: I'm not buying the whole Taylor Swift and Apple were in cohorts conspiracy theories. However, I don't trust Apple at all. I say this as I type on my 2010 MacBook Pro, and I'll likely text you in a bit from my iPhone 5, and before I go to bed I'll scour my iPad 2's MLB At Bat app for a few Cincinnati Reds highlights. (If there are any.) But my trust in the company has been completely destroyed in the last year, as I've watched the company become more obsessed with itself and more and more anti-consumer in the process. Apple's entry into the streaming industry has been surrounded by controversy, (let's not forget how before the announcement of Apple Music, they were putting pressure on labels to get them to ask Spotify to remove their free tier completely-the definition of a conflict of interest and one which they are still in legal heat over) and also why the largest company in the WORLD, with more market capital than anyone else in the WORLD, couldn't afford to spare some money to give to artists during their trial period is BEYOND me. They are trying to position themselves as the saviors of the music industry. How do they expect to convince those of us who care about the music industry's well-being that they're our saviors when it takes Taylor Swift getting the mainstream listener involved for them to be like, "Whoa. You're right. We'll pay you." I mean, seriously? I'll tell you what I think I'm going to do, Derek. I will likely use this service for about a day, then I'm going to go back to my Spotify Premium. Sure, Spotify has its problems, but at least it doesn't threaten indie artists with removing their music from iTunes if they don't agree to Apple Music's stipulations. What do you think?
DEREK: First off, let me say that the last Apple product that I bought was an iPod Classic because it had the most space for an MP3 player and I had a substantial music library at the time, so I am not beholden to the almighty Apple. Second, I think that you made some great points about Apple's motivation (good or bad) for not paying artists during the first 3 months. I think that, as a publicly traded company, they are expected to trim expenses where they can.
In this respect, one can also argue that since record labels agreed to these terms with Apple, artists like Taylor Swift have less of a right to disagree with terms their labels agreed to already. This is from a purely business perspective and not at all on what I consider right or wrong.
I think Taylor needs to have more understanding of what people in her camp are doing. She's been getting some backlash from photographers for what her management firm makes them agree to in order to shoot her concerts. Namely, the photographer has to get permission every time they use or publish pictures taken at her shows. Critics, including myself, say that photographers should have exclusive rights to their photographs without exception because that is their art form, just as music is to Taylor Swift. If she is going to publicly claim that her rights as an artist are being violated by Apple Music, she needs to know the nuances of her business as a whole too.
In the end, this may be one of the nails in the coffin for Apple Music. I think one thing that AM has over a service like TIDAL is that most people have already used the iTunes Store. There's already brand recognition beyond that of the artists involved. The problem with being one of the last to enter a market is that, as was a problem for TIDAL, people are already in the habit of using services like Pandora or Spotify. I have yet to see a reason, application feature or pricing, what would take me away from a freemium service that I'm already in the habit of using. I can tell you right away that I haven't tried TIDAL, I have no plans to try Apple Music, and I probably won't try whatever else is released until there are service features that get me excited enough to change my habits.
JOSEPH: Excellent points. Building off what you said towards the end there, I really think Apple is going to back track on not having a free tier shortly after the 3 month trial period ends and the service sees a mass exodus. So it's important for them as a company and for the artists/labels involved that are putting their music on there that they begin to establish royalties for the inevitable free tier once they go freemium. Not only that, but now they've put themselves in the position to give any amount they want for royalties on the trial tier that will likely transfer over to the freemium tier. Can you say $1 for 1,000,000 streams? Given Apple's recent track record, this is a very scary possibility to me.
Now I'm not going to sit here and call Taylor Swift a savior, because she has her own problems for sure. But at least she has the balls to step up and use her power and influence as a major mainstream artist for good. Because all of you saying that this should've been an indie artist who sent in the open letter instead of Taylor Swift, I got news for you: the only people who care what Automagik has to think is Automagik fans. That's it. Most of their 2,000 Facebook fans will say, "Right on guys! Way to speak the truth and stand up for what you believe in!" and then do nothing. But every mainstream fan will say, "Who?" and then stop caring. That is if they even hear about it. The music industry DESPERATELY needs more mainstream musicians willing to stand up for controversial beliefs like Taylor Swift does, and even though she is far from perfect herself, I still respect her tremendously for at least putting herself out there.
Finally, the music industry has long struggled to come to grips with the popularity of digital media, and they have always been behind on the popularity of anything involved with it. The notion that Apple is going to save the music industry? Well, if Steve Jobs were still alive and a major piece of the company, I might agree with you. But now? It's pure BS. As you said, Derek, the only reason anyone will use Apple Music is for the name, and we'll have to see if the name alone is worth enough to get people to leave Spotify. I'd be willing to bet the farm it isn't.
https://consequenceofsound.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/apple-music.jpg?w=807 (Apple Music)
http://cdn.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/taylor-swift-apple-music-644x373.jpg?20efae (T Swift Apple pic)
http://s.thestreet.com/files/tsc/v2008/photos/contrib/uploads/tidal.jpg (TIDAL pic)