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.