Apple’s announcement of Apple Music, as anticipated, sent tremors of excitement, curiosity, and fear across the music industry. With the service set to launch in just 11 days, the lines of support and discontent are being drawn in predictable places.
Over at The Verge, Dieter Bohn got an early play session with an Apple Music beta, and he’s got mostly good things to say. According to Bohn, the app doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and doesn’t necessarily have much of a wow-factor, it’s familiarity and ease of use are a big plus.
Apple Music is the guy you’ve been dating awhile getting a new haircut that’s pretty good. He’s growing a bit of a belly and constantly wearing a hoodie but he’ll be good to you and sometimes there will be flashes of brilliance that remind you why you loved him in the first place. Except sometimes he drives you crazy by putting your favorite stuff in a random drawer.
And while Apple Music’s UX/UI has received muted but mostly positive praise, the inner-workings of the deals that will make the app possible have been the subject of close scrutiny. As we reported earlier, the Attorneys General of New York and Connecticut are part of an ongoing anti-trust investigation into those deals, and this week they released a letter addressing the investigations.
In the letter, UMG denies any wrongdoing on their part, and promises to cooperate with the investigation fully.
“UMG shares the Attorneys General’s commitment to a robust and competitive market for music streaming services in the mutual best interest of consumers, artists, services and content companies alike – and we have a long track record to that effect. We are pleased to have provided the Attorneys General information demonstrating that conduct. It is our understanding that, given these representations, the Attorneys General have no present intention to make further inquiries of UMG in this regard.”
Meanwhile, independent labels have expressed varying degrees of dissatisfaction. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon says Apple are no longer innovating and mourns the loss of the company that he says made him believe in people.
Independent record labels are not happy about the news that during Apple Music’s 3-month free trial, there will be no royalty payments to labels, artists, or presumably publishers and songwriters, placing vital revenue streams at risk for smaller labels. The Beggars Group, which includes 4AD, Matador, XL, Young Turks, and Rough Trade released a statement expressing their concerns:
“Given the natural response of competing digital services to offer comparable terms, we fear that the free trial aspect, far from moving the industry away from freemium services — a model we support — is only resulting in taking the “mium” out of freemium,”
Australia’s independent music companies trade body, AIR, feels similarly to The Beggars Group,
“This is a major problem for any label that relies on new releases rather than deep catalog, as the potential for this free trial to cannibalize not only download sales, which remain a very important revenue stream, but also streaming income from other services, is enormous. As a whole the independent sector is a powerful voice in the music industry but its individual parts, the smaller labels particularly, cannot withstand such a potentially catastrophic drop in revenue. Essentially Apple is asking the independent music sector to hedge its risk, to fund their customer acquisition program and to shoulder the financial burden for their global launch.”
Upsetting the indie labels could be a big problem for Apple Music. As Music Business Worldwide points out, if the indies won’t play with Apple, that means no Adele, and no Adele or her indie compatriots would be a huge problem. Also amongst MBW’s 5 big problems Apple needs to fix, an incompatibility with Sonos, missing out on the Beatles and Taylor Swift, and the possible licensing problems inherent in Apple Connect, the social media component of Apple Music.
The fourth episode of our Musonomics podcast is on the way just ahead of the June 30 Apple Music launch, with a host of experts to talk about how the new service may change the landscape of music streaming. Scheduled guests include Venrock’s David Pakman, the RIAA’s Josh Friedlander, Spotify’s Will Page, artist manager Emily White, and Toolshed’s Dick Huey. We’ll discuss how Apple Music might shape the future of the industry — and how it might not.
Watch out for the next installment of our Musonomics podcast late next week. If you’re thirsting for expert analysis today, read Mark Mulligan’s Music Industry Blog and check out his most recent post, Apple, The Indies And The Rise Of The Digital Monopsony. As always, Mark offers well-supported, data-driven insight on what Apple Music means for the industry.