After pulling out all the stops in the smear campaign against Apple, the Spotify/Google juggernaut got a pause this week courtesy of @taylorswift13. Mr. Ek–and potentially the entire ad-supported business model touted by The Man 2.0–may need some help. You know, buy a vowel, phone a friend–just not one named Sean or Larry. Courtesy of Complete Music Update, a summary of indie label reaction:
Helen Smith of pan-European labels group IMPALA: “This is a great precedent in any sector on the benefits of working together and taking a stance to achieve a fair result. With 80% of all new releases produced by independent labels, this is also a great result for Apple. Their launch will now incorporate the very music that makes an online service attractive to music fans. The involvement of Merlin is vital considering its fundamental role in strengthening the independent sector. IMPALA has repeatedly called on online platforms to ‘play fair’ and this is an impressive outcome for independent labels and artists”.
Darius Van Arman, Secretly Group: “Apple listened to our community and then revised its music service agreement, demonstrating that it is committed to treating fairly all creators – labels, artists and songwriters. Secretly Group is proud to continue its partnership with Apple towards making music truly indispensable”.
Tom Silverman, Tommy Boy: “Today’s agreement shows Apple’s concern for the issues of the artist and independent label creative community. We look forward to Apple achieving huge and rapid success with its subscription service”.
Oke Gottlich, Finetunes: “The German indie sector is very happy and grateful that Apple has returned to the table, starting a dialogue again and involved our members – the small and middle-sized labels – for making the new Apple Music experience a real game changer for the whole music sector, finally”.
And from MTP’s favorite, Martin Mills, Chairman of Beggars Group and records man extraordinaire:
“Over the last few days we have had increasingly fruitful discussions with Apple. We are now delighted to say that we are happy to endorse the deal with Apple Music as it now stands, and look forward to being a big part of a very exciting future”.
Here’s a quick trip down a Spotify short-term memory lane for some long-term problems.
1. Contract Leaks: Nobody believes that Spotify had nothing to do with leaking Sony’s contract. At least they didn’t try to blame it on the North Koreans! Why would you ever trust Spotify to hold on to a piece of paper?
2. Blaming the Labels for Low Artist Royalties Hasn’t Worked: There are way too many indie artists who collect the label and the artist share to buy into this crap. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s the indie artists who do get the total label, publisher, artist and songwriter pie who are complaining about how their royalties are shite while Spotify gets multibillion dollar valuations. And who could forget Sean Parker’s line about what’s really cool, like dude. Once they’ve insulted you and tried to interfere with your relationship with your label and vice versa to masque their own shite deals and cronyism, who would trust their spin?
3. Complaining to Antitrust Authorities Hasn’t Worked (Yet): And probably won’t. It’s pretty clear now that Apple’s supposedly “take it or leave it” terms weren’t getting taken and so were left. With 50% control over the global subscription market according to Spotify analyst Will Page, I would not be too quick to cast stones. Particularly not with Google as a member of the Spotify board of directors. Stones have a tendency to boomerang. So unlike Mr. Ek’s refusal to cooperate with @taylorswift13 and YouTube’s threats to indie labels and independent artists, Apple came back to the table.
4. Daniel Ek is in the Advertising Business: Mr. Ek has been very clear just how wedded he is to the advertising model–you know, the one where his board member Google sells advertising on Spotify (and YouTube and everywhere else). In fact, he supposedly said he’d rather shut down the company than give up “free” music, i.e., ad supported.
Which is fine, but he should stop fooling himself that he’s in the music business. He’s not. He’s in the advertising business. That’s what he is committed to, not the subscription business. And certainly not the music business.
If artists want to be in the advertising business, too, then fine. Make your deal with Spotify. But don’t do it thinking you’re “helping” Spotify get into the subscription business. Not at a multibillion valuation. They don’t need your help.
5. If Apple Can Pay for Free Trials, So Can Spotify: Of the many things we can thank Taylor Swift for point out is that it’s just as unfair to give any digital service a break on “try before you buy” as it was to give away dozens of CDs in a record club. No more free trials–services should either pay the artists–all the artists and songwriters, that is–or find some other way to market their service. Maybe marketing the music might be a place to start. Just sayin’.
6. There’s A Heart in that Machine, Not a Ghost: Remember the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz? Did he want an algorithm or a heart? One thing we’ll find out with Apple Music is whether fans really do want real people suggesting music to them on Beats 1 and whether artists can develop a sustained relationship with fans through Connect. I’m very optimistic about these things.
Why? Because I think what drives fans to music is heart. And that’s what’s always made Apple different–to coin a phrase. Because it takes courage to use your brain and listen to your heart. And check it out Toto–you’re not in Kansas anymore.