Record Labels Can Choose Which Albums and Tracks are Streamable on Apple Music, and When Streaming Is Allowed

Apple Music is launching in a week, amid a great deal of controversy. Taylor Swift made a lot of noise, saying that she wasn’t going to allow her latest album to be streamed on Apple Music during the three-month free trial period, nudging Apple to change their policy. However, Ms Swift seemed quite happy to allow her other albums to be streamed.

It’s important to highlight the fact that record labels don’t have to opt in to Apple Music for all their music. They can choose whether or not a given album, or track, is streamable.

Apple music cleared

As you can see above, there is a checkbox to clear an album for sale, and another to clear it for Apple Music. (Drilling down in the iTunes Connect interface, labels can also choose which territories this applies to.) There is also a Cleared for Apple Music date, so a label could release an album for sale on the iTunes Store, and allow it to be streamed, say, three months later.

This latter feature is probably what we’ll see for major releases, and this gives Apple a big advantage over other streaming services. Since Apple sells and streams, labels will be able to manage both with a windowing strategy (allowing different uses at different times).

My guess is that labels who are allowing their music to be streamed will take advantage of this Apple Music Start Date to ensure sales in the first months after an album is released. But this highlights the fact that Apple Music users may not be able to stream new releases; it will depend on each label, and each album.