Press Clipping
Apple Music Unveils a ‘Preferred Distribution Program’. Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?

With its ‘Preferred Digital Distributor’ list, should we expect Apple Music to soon allow direct uploads for artists — or even make a play for a digital distributor?
The Cupertino company has quietly launched its ‘Apple Preferred Distribution Program.’

With the launch of its program, Apple Music has named just three music distributors as its “Preferred Plus” partners – CD Baby, The Orchard, and Kontor New Media.

As partners, the three digital distributors can now offer exclusive features to their clients not available on competitors’ platforms. This includes support for advanced Apple Music and iTunes features, advanced analytics, and early access to both services’ Sales and Trends features.

The Cupertino company bases its programs on several thresholds, primarily size and rejection rate. A qualifying Preferred Plus distributing partner, for example, crosses the threshold of 40,000 songs per quarter, has a low Apple Music rejection rate, and supports basic and advanced customer features.

A ‘Preferred’ distribution partner crosses 10,000 songs per quarter, has a low rejection rate, and supports basic customer features.

The move could signal the streaming music service will follow in Spotify’s footsteps.
Last month, Spotify quietly revealed its own ‘preferred’ digital distributor list. The streaming music giant named CD Baby, EmuBands, The Orchard, FUGA, and Distrokid (notice CD Baby and The Orchard topped both rankings). These distributors tend to cater to indie labels and artists. But the five companies represent a small selection of distributors that can help artists and labels get their music onto the service.

This came after Spotify revealed plans to allow select artists to directly upload songs onto the platform.

Revealing its plans to possibly control the digital distribution chain, Spotify then revealed a minority stake in DistroKid. The partnership will allow Spotify to facilitate its direct-upload feature, as well as distribute to rival services (likely for a fee).

Whether Apple Music will soon allow artists to directly upload their music onto the platform remains to be seen. Certainly there’s been industry speculation in that direction, though nothing has been confirmed.
One differentiator is that Apple likely has a more robust uploading and ingestion infrastructure, based on its iTunes know-how. According to sources, Spotify has struggled to build its direct-upload functionality, which would explain the Distrokid partnership.

And let’s not forget Spotify’s up-the-ante decision to also allow distribution to rival streaming services alongside its direct-upload offering (also taken care of by Distrokid). That could point to a possible Apple partnership or acquisition involving a rival digital distributor, with Spotify’s tie-up with Distrokid potentially motivating the move.

To be continued…