Why You Won’t Be Able to Stream Everything from the iTunes Store with Apple Music

Apple claims to have 37 million “songs” in the iTunes Store, and they say that, with Apple Music, you’ll be able to “get access to the full Apple Music library” with a membership (a paid subscription).

However, you won’t be able to stream everything on the iTunes Store. While a number of high profile artists, including one Taylor Swift, are refusing to allow their music to be streamed, a number of indie labels are also not signing on to the service. There have also been suggestions that The Beatles will not allow their music to be streamed.

Many record labels, who don’t believe in licensing their music for streaming, are finding that there seems to be a de facto clause in Apple’s new terms and conditions for the iTunes Store that allows Apple to stream their music. If labels don’t sign the revised terms and conditions that they have been offered, it seems that their music won’t be streamed, but these terms and conditions cover both sales and streaming from the iTunes Store. Record labels are worried that by not signing these terms and conditions, Apple may not sell their music any more.

Add to this the fact that Apple’s three-month trial is being financed by record labels: your three month free trial means that the record labels get no money for the music you stream. It’s not as bad as the exaggerated statements of some labels, saying that they would be “totally screwed,” and record labels will not go out of business because of not getting additional income from streaming for three months. (It’s unlikely that every paid user of other streaming services will cancel their current subscriptions during that period.) But given that this three-month free trial is marketing for Apple, and that it will definitely impact iTunes Store sales, record labels feel that Apple should pay them for the opportunity to use their music for this purpose.

One musician went postal over what he says were claims, by Apple, that his music would be removed from the iTunes Store if he didn’t opt in to the free trial. But Apple has refuted this, saying that “artists are free to choose whether or not to be part of the subscription service (including the “three-month trial”) without any repercussions.”

I strongly agree that no one should give their work away for free. Apple should compensate these artists, because their music is what is going to make or break Apple Music. To be fair, Apple will be paying a higher rate of royalties to record labels than Spotify, but not by much. Expecting musicians to foot the bill for this free trial is unfair. On the other hand, if, after three months, Apple Music has, say, 50 million subscribers, then all the labels whose music is on Apple Music will benefit. But Apple’s not selling it this way; they’re just imposing their conditions.

There will be record labels who don’t want their music streamed. There are a number of independent classical labels who don’t play the streaming game. For example, Hyperion has never licensed its recordings for streaming. In jazz, the venerable ECM won’t be present either. (Unless, of course, they’ve changed their tune; they used to be on Spotify, and pulled their music a couple of years ago.) As to specific artists, such as Taylor Swift or The Beatles, I’m not sure how that works. If their label is small enough, as is the case with The Beatles they can opt out for all their music, but can artists opt it of their with a larger label that has allowed streaming?

It should be noted that there are many artists who don’t stream on Spotify or other services, and this hasn’t made the news (with the exception of Ms. Swift, who used to allow her music to be streamed, and recently pulled it). It’s only the fact that it’s Apple that makes everyone pay attention. But, in a way, it’s right that people notice. Apple Music could be very big, and early agreements will influence the way the service works, and its success.

Update: 1,300 German companies – labels, publishers, distributors, etc. – have signed an open letter to Apple saying, notably:

Independents shouldn’t be the ones paying for your customer acquisition and the risk of the launch of your service.

As I said above, Apple should bear the costs of marketing this service.

New Features Coming to Apple’s Garage Band on June 30

Apple’s Garage Band web page shows that the company is planning to update the app on June 30:

Garage band new features

June 30 is also the date that Apple Music goes live. I don’t expect Apple to add any features to Garage Band that take advantage of Apple Music – they don’t want you to record music from Apple Music’s radio stations, for example – but this date suggests that, in addition to Apple Music, Apple plans to make other changes to its music software.

There will certainly be a new version of iTunes, but it will most likely be a 12.2 update, not iTunes 13. iTunes 12 has only been out since last fall, and Apple doesn’t issue major updates to iTunes that often. Also, many people haven’t gotten used to the changes in the iTunes interface that version 12 bought.

So what will Garage Band bring on June 30? My bet is it’ll include some way of uploading content to Connect, which is part of Apple Music. One thing about Connect seems to be the ability for any artist to sign up, and, while you’ll probably be able to upload files through a web interface, allowing Garage Band users to upload their songs directly would be a nice touch.

We’ll find out in two weeks.

No, CNN, Apple Music Will not Sound Worse

Oh, my, CNN is really full of nitwits. They say: Apple Music will sound worse but save on your data plan. (To be fair, there are a number of tech websites, such as The Next Web, that get this wrong too.)

It just goes to show, digital music codecs are confusing. You can’t blame them for just looking at the numbers. But a bit of research would show that this is simply wrong.

Apple Music will stream music in AAC format at 256 kbps. CNN compared this to other services, such as Beats Music, which stream MP3 files at 320 kbps.

What they don’t consider, however, is that AAC – also known as MP4 – is a much better codec. It won’t sound worse at that lower bit rate; it will sound just as good, if not better, than 320 kbps MP3 files. And, it saves you money on bandwidth.

While they point out that Spotify only uses 320 kbps for paid subscribers (others get 96 or 160 kbps), they still manage to say that Apple Music will sound worse. And they don’t point out that Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis files, which are much lower quality than either MP3 or AAC.

Frankly, I think Apple Music should have an option to stream 128 kbps AAC files, when you’re using it on mobile devices. You don’t need the difference in audio quality between 128 and 256 kbps unless you’re listening in a quiet environment, at home, or on really good headphones.

Spotify Admits Defeat Already

Spotify’s head Daniel Ek notably tweeted “Uh ok,” after Apple announced its Apple Music service. Today, Reuters is reporting that Ek has already admitted defeat. He is quoted as saying:

“To me it is enough to be among the top three… But right now we have an advantage of being the number one in music.”

Geez, he shouldn’t give up this fast. Though you have to admit, Apple is the juggernaut coming in and shaking things up. I’m not convinced that Apple will “win” this market though, if winning means anything. It’s possible that Apple will get people to pay for streaming who never paid for it before, and that Spotify will keep many of their 20 million paid subscribers. In other words, Apple’s service could be what tips the balance toward streaming as a viable alternative for everyone.

However, it will be much harder to differentiate music streaming services in the future. It’s not a handful of exclusives that will make people switch from one streaming service to another. Once you’re locked into that service – when it’s got your listening history, your playlists, and your friends – it’s less likely that you’ll change. The difference won’t be one of price, as Apple has aligned their pricing with Spotify and others. It will be one of convenience, of user interface, of usability. And Spotify is not the leader there.

Interesting times for the music industry.

Clickbait Article Publishes Incorrect Figures about How Much Apple Music is Paying Record Labels

Digital Music News, known for its not-quite-precise reporting about the digital music industry, ran a nice clickbait article yesterday, Apple Is Paying Just 58% of Streaming Royalties Back to Indie ArtistsÂ…. This article was picked up later by a number of Apple-related and tech websites. But Digital Music News was wrong; and now they admit it, sort of.

It all begins with a contract they got a hold of. This contract stated that, per $10 account, Apple would be paying out $5.80 to record labels. But, as several commenters pointed out, this does not take into account publishing royalties, paid to composers and songwriters, which are paid separately from performance rights. These publishing royalties, which come to around 12%, added to that 58%, equal – oh, what a surprise!!! – 70%, the industry standard rate for payouts to musicians and composers combined.

Digital Music News did publish a correction, after the first paragraph of the article:

Digital music news 58

But didn’t change their clickbait headline. Sigh.

Apple Music: a Close Look at How it Works

Apple announced Apple Music yesterday. This new service combines a music streaming service with discovery features, curated playlists, and radio, and also includes a sort-of-social network for music. (Remember Ping?) Apple’s presentation of Apple Music was very confused and confusing, and was marred by uninspired presenters, suggesting that the company really hadn’t spent much time planning the presentation.

As of today, all we know about Apple Music is what’s on the surface. Here’s what Apple Music offers:

Music Streaming

Apple Music will be a music streaming service, like Spotify, Deezer, or even Tidal (without the lossless option that latter service offers). Presumably, Apple Music will stream at 256 kbps, but Apple has not said anything about quality. Apple claims that you can listen to “the tens of millions of tracks in the Apple Music library.” I note that they did not say “all the music available on the iTunes Store,” which suggests that labels may be allowed to opt out.

But Apple says:

Apple music1

This suggests that Apple Music will work as I suggested in this article. I suggested that Apple would integrate streaming tracks into your library, allowing you to make playlists with tracks you own and tracks you rent. This seems to fit with what Apple says on their website:

Wherever your music comes from — purchased in the iTunes Store, ripped from a rare import CD, or downloaded from your favorite music blog — everything you’ve collected lives in one place. And alongside it is the ever-expanding Apple Music library. It’s like having just about every song ever recorded at your fingertips.

And this:

As an Apple Music member you can add anything from the Apple Music library — a song, an album, or a video — to your collection. And that’s just the warm-up act. From there you can create the perfect playlist from anything you’ve added. You can save it for offline listening and take it on the road.

Apple Music will be available through iOS devices, Macs or PCs using iTunes, the Apple Watch, and even Android, with an app for that platform available in the fall. And Apple Music is clearly designed for those users who already have an iTunes library. If you’re a Spotify user, and only listen to music through that service, there’s little incentive to switch. But if you do have music in your iTunes library, then Apple Music, by allowing you to combine your existing library and streamed tracks, makes it much easier to use what you already own.

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