Apple has announced the launch of Apple Music, a new on-demand streaming service that is set to compete with Spotify, Rdio, Google Play, etc.
[Note: If you’re including streaming services in your distribution through CD Baby, your music will already be at Apple Music when it launches on June 30th. Plus, you will have access to customize your Apple Music artist profile through Connect!]
Over the past few months, as rumors of the launch spread, many people in the industry met the news with skepticism or indifference: Big deal, another streaming service! Why would I pay for Apple Music when I get Spotify for free? Spotify already has millions of customers; Apple Music has zero! And so forth.
But I’ve been quietly excited for this launch for a while now. Why? Well, Doug Morris, Sony Music’s CEO, summed it up pretty well during an interview at Midem: “(Apple has) $178 billion dollars in the bank. And they have 800 million credit cards in iTunes. Spotify has never really advertised because it’s never been profitable. My guess is that Apple will promote this like crazy and I think that will have a halo effect on the streaming business.”
In other words, Apple is perhaps the ONE player with the power, reach, bank account, and brand loyalty to shift consumer habits en masse towards PAID music streaming (since Apple Music has no free tier).
A smooth transition to streaming?
No way in hell was your great aunt Wilma going to start a Spotify account. But Apple? Why not! They’ve already got her payment info, and the next time she goes into Verizon to trade in her phone, Apple Music will come pre-loaded on her next device.
Plus, there’ll be Apple Music commercials on TV and radio. Apple Music branding all over the internet. Apple Music in the press and magazines. This could be the tipping point where music consumers adopt subscription-based music streaming, driving up per-play streaming payouts to artists and labels, and bringing more attention to the important issues of artist and songwriter remuneration that will help secure a lively independent music economy in the digital present and future.
That’s my hope, at least.
Sure, audiophiles will still want their hi-res downloads, and plenty of people still want CDs and vinyl (myself included), but it hardly makes sense anymore for the average consumer to store music files on their own devices.
That’s just reality, and there’s no going back (unless the earth is hit by devastating solar flares, in which case I hope you’ve stored up a lifetime supply of acoustic guitar strings!)
Once we’re all consuming music in the way that makes the most sense for today’s technology, then everyone — the artists, the subscribers, the streaming services, the legislators, and (of course) the lobbyists — can get down to the business of figuring out what’s equitable for all.
And when labels and distributors can negotiate a certain payment structure for streams with Apple Music (because, again, all Apple Music users will be paid subscribers), they’ll be in a position to pressure Spotify and other streaming services to abandon their free tiers. The world will pay for music again. Then it’s just a matter of making sure those per-stream payouts rise accordingly.
Does this sound like an inevitability or a utopian dream? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.