Now this qualifies for a major power play if we've ever seen one. Apple Music is currently in the process of launching their new streaming service, and one of the most recent backlashes to stem from the project was leaked contracts that revealed musicians wouldn't be making any money off their standard three-month trial period. This would allow users to test the waters for a while, and then decide if they wanted to jump in head first.
Although royalties will be paid to artists from full subscriptions, this clause within their roll out plan is already pissing off a lot of people and specifically indie labels and musicians. Anton Newcombe of the San Francisco-based based band The Brian Jonestown Massacre recently unleashed a Twitter rant against Apple, reportedly speaking to someone from the company and being told they would remove his music off iTunes if he didn't agree to their master plan.
You can view the full series of tweets below, along with an open letter about the service from Beggars Group. This label collective hosts Young Turks, 4AD, XL Recordings, Rough Trade, and more, and addressed their concerns with the platform. Beyond that, the UPFI, a French indie music trade group that represents the majority of the countries distribution for producers and independent phonograms, shared their open letter. You can find that below as well.
From Beggars Group: We thought it was time to update you on the situation with Apple Music, following speculation in the press, some of it ill-informed. Apple have been a wonderful partner for the last decade, and we confidently trust they will continue to be so. We have recently been in discussions with Apple Music about proposed terms for their new service. In many ways the deal structure is very progressive, but unfortunately it was created without reference to us, or as far as we know any independents, and as such unsurprisingly presents problems for us, and for our coming artist releases. We are naturally very concerned, especially for artists releasing new albums in the next three months, that all streaming on the new service will be unremunerated until the end of September. Whilst we understand the logic of their proposal and their aim to introduce a subscription-only service, we struggle to see why rights owners and artists should bear this aspect of Apple’s customer acquisition costs.And 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.
We are also naturally concerned, as ever, as to whether we and you are being treated on a level playing field vis a vis the major labels and their artists. Additionally, we have reservations about both commercial and practical aspects of the Artist Connect area. It is a mistake to treat these rights as royalty free, especially in the light of recent licenses with services like Soundcloud.
At the moment we do not have an agreement with Apple Music that would allow us to participate in the new service. However, we very much hope that the obstacles to agreement can be removed, for us and for independent Merlin-member labels as a whole, and that we will be able to fully support this potentially exciting new service in the coming days.
From UPFI: We take the liberty to write today to Apple for their leaders to express our deep dissatisfaction with the conditions of launch of their new streaming music service globally. The UPFI is a professional organization representing the majority of producers and distributors of independent phonograms. In France, the independent labels have initiated 80% of new products albums on our territory and account for over 30% of production sold regardless of its origin (37% in the digital domain).
We have always regarded Apple as an innovative brand in all areas, close to what the independent labels embodied in the discovery of new musical aesthetics. We believe that the arrival of Apple Music is such as to "boost" the music streaming market, while considering that there's room for several players.
Unfortunately, the speed with which Apple has announced the launch of this new service and the lack of consultation from the independent sector regarding contractual terms that are proposed or imposed on them, gives the feeling that Apple intends to impose its terms without the possibility of real negotiations prior. This attitude is clearly likely to have serious adverse consequences for our members in the short term.
The most damaging decision for music producers is that of imposing a total lack of compensation for labels for a period of 3 months, corresponding to a gratuity offered to customers of Apple Music.
By doing so, Apple may cause a loss of income which may be considerable for all labels whose activity is based on the release of new products, and even more so when their economic balance depends on the success of a title or an album during the free period. This attitude is all the more shocking as it is supporting the music production community financing the marketing launch of their service. Even Apple knows the recurrent difficulties of the music industry and that everyone knows the huge profits of Apple and its market value.
Apple can not require producers of music to assume the financing of the launch of this service, at the risk of aggravating the economic difficulties that many businesses go through.
Apple has for over 10 years a major partner for the music industry, but it is clear that trying to impose a contract of adhesion and unacceptable launch conditions for all independent labels, this one takes the risk undermining the spirit of cooperation which must prevail in our relations.
If, as they suggest, Apple has a deep respect for the music and the artists must review the conditions of launch of Apple Music and ensuring that independent labels are not forced to bear the financial cost.
(H/T): Crack Magazine