In the summer of 2013, Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail hit over 14 million streams on Spotify making it the album with the biggest first week in the music site’s history. Yet, the artist, known for his business savvy, struck a USD 5 Million deal with Samsung for a million free downloads. Three months later, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke removed a bunch of the group’s songs, including his solo The Eraser, from Spotify. In November 2014, Taylor Swift pulled her entire discography from the streaming platform, followed by country music compatriot Jason Aldean, who pulled his album Old Boots, New Dirt from the site. More recently, Justin Moore decided to pull out his year-old album Off the Beaten Path. The reason behind these disassociations was the feeling that Spotify (or any streaming service, for that matter) does not pay the artists well enough.
So, how will Apple Music fare with retaining its traffic-pullers? We are cautiously optimistic. Steve Jobs’ love for music was well known and he had built great personal relationships with some of the greatest musicians of our time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Mick Jagger. This love for music is also evident in Apple’s DNA; it is this healthy relationship between musicians and Apple that has helped them cajole previously reluctant artists, such as The Beatles, into joining iTunes.
The artists, for their part, also seem eager to be a part of Apple Music. Rich Bengloff, president of American Association of Independent Music, in his official press release said, "We believe most of our members have signed up for Apple Music. We're putting anything that's happened in the past behind us". Spring King, a UK-based indie band, whose song City was chosen as the first to be played on Apple Music by DJ Zane Lowe said that they ”never expected to be part of something so big by doing what we love". Among bigger names, Rock band AC/DC and Taylor Swift have also decided to make their catalog available on Apple Music.
Swift is a particularly noteworthy addition to the Apple Music catalog following her estrangement from Spotify in November last year, where she cited the limited royalties that artists earn from music streaming platforms. She is regarded as an industry in herself, given all the revenue she generates from different sources, such as touring, merchandising, and endorsements. Her decision to join Apple Music is a testimony to Apple’s large ecosystem, which can help her broaden her horizon even further. Though Apple has promised artists royalties that are only slightly better than the market rate, it is the size of the Apple ecosystem that’s fuelling the artist community’s enthusiasm.
This enthusiasm is also fueled, at least in part, by the lucrative ‘Connect’ feature, which provides a platform for artists to communicate directly with fans via text updates, audio clips, and videos recordings. However, with so many updates coming from so many different artists, it wouldn’t be very surprising if you missed that peek into the making of the next song from your favorite artist. Another downside, your friends cannot communicate with you or tag you on the platform. [Please refer to Can Apple Music beat well-entrenched incumbents? where we explore some of the features that Apple Music lacks]
Hopefully, these forces will encourage fans to move beyond passively listening to music (say, while jogging) to a more interactive experience. What else can Apple do to ensure Apple Music brings positive changes in consumer behavior? Well, that would be the subject of the next installment in this series. So, watch this space.