Apple Music, the tech giant’s long-awaited foray into music streaming, launches today. Apple is hoping it becomes the one, true streaming service that can get millions of people to pay to play, just like it got millions to pay for downloads from its iTunes Store.
Some indie insiders hope so, too. After holding out to ensure artists would be paid during Apple Music’s free trial period, big-name indie label clearinghouses like Beggars Group and Merlin Network have joined the major labels to sign on for the streaming service. The belief is that the revenue for indie artists on Apple Music—even if it’s minuscule per stream—may mean more bucks overall than what they get from streaming competitors. And with Apple Music’s new social network, Connect, indie artists may finally have the definitive place to interact directly with their fans—like Myspace a decade ago, but with way more weight behind it.
“It’s going to be huge. There will be exponentially more users, like a Facebook with a billion users,” says Tracy Maddux, CEO of CD Baby, one of the largest distributors of independent music. Maddux argues that if Apple can convert even a small percentage of the users that currently pay to download songs from the iTunes store, the company will bring in more revenue than with downloads—revenue in which artists will share.
“The pool of money available to all artists grows exponentially,” he says.
The Future of the Industry
For indie artists, labels, and distributors, digital revenue has become increasingly important. According to a survey conducted by Merlin, one-third of its indie labels and distributors reported that more than half of their digital revenue now comes from audio streaming and subscription services.
“The shift to streaming is marked and accelerating,” says Merlin CEO Charles Caldas. “I think in some ways we’re getting a look at what the future of the industry looks like now.”