Taylor Swift has signed on to have her music streamed via Apple’s new music streaming service because she approves of their subscription only plan. Cool.
Paid subscriptions. I love the sound of a streaming service that won’t give music away for free—(except for the first 3 months). Philosophically speaking, it’s music to my ears: no free ad-supported tier. Ever. (Except for the first 3 months.) The only thing is, the music Apple will be giving away for free—for the first 3 months—does not really belong to Apple. It belongs to us. Songwriters. But there’s nothing we can do to stop them. Hmm. Thinking. Subscriptions—good. Why do I still feel kinda icky? Moving on…
For the consumer to opt in and pay for what he or she could get for free is a huge step forward from the “culture of free” Napster cultivated. It shows that the consumer has the capacity to respect and value music after all! So yay! Go consumer! Much appreciated!
But $10-$15 a month? Hmm. Pondering…when I was a kid that’s about how much I spent on music. (It was all I could afford on my allowance.) So, maybe Apple's subscriptions are fairly priced. Then again, that bought me one full album per month. I didn’t have a choice of everything on the menu. I couldn’t have however much I wanted, whenever I wanted it. And—if I didn’t like that one album I couldn’t return it and choose another. So, hmm…not sure about that $10-15. But it’s definitely better than free. Thinking…thinking…
I heard someone say he would rather subscribe to music via Spotify because at least Spotify pays out more to rights owners that Apple will. Really? While I am happy to hear people taking that into consideration, it’s not so simple. Of the 60-million Spotify subscribers, only 25% subscribe to the paid tier. Everyone else has opted for the free ad-supported service. And guess how much revenue songwriters make on those ads? Nada. But other entities make plenty. Oy.
Plus…with the decline in digital download sales and the cannibalization of the CD market, major record labels are salivating at the thought of the 800-million credit card numbers Apple has on file that could potentially translate into subscriptions. And because record labels aren’t subject to the same outdated laws for the streaming of the sound recordings as songwriters are for the streaming of their songs, every new subscription will add to their revenue. Labels might be okay with those first 3 free months. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are profiting from that “free.”
Optimistic. Hopeful. Confused.
Here’s where I keep going…even an extra 10-million paid subscriptions are not going to cure what ails the songwriter’s paycheck. It won’t raise the abominably low licensing rate songwriters are paid per streamed song. So, as sweet as the idea of paid subscriptions are, the fact is we still have those archaic consent decrees to deal with. That’s not Apple’s fault. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this new service, with it’s potential to boost a music industry in decline, is the solution for songwriters. Or recording artists for that matter.
So here’s what I’m thinking. We need help from people who say they care.
It wasn’t too long ago Ms. Swift pulled her music from Spotify as a statement against music being given away for free. Respect. There were different opinions as to her underlying motivation. Perhaps she wanted her album to go platinum in the blink of an eye–(which it did)—if people wanted to hear it, they had to buy it. With money. Like I did. And so did 999,999 others. And counting. So, maybe that was part of her plan. But maybe that wasn’t all of it.
If she really wants to put her money where her mouth is, I would urge her to grab some of her music making friends (Max Martin :) ) and lend her voice to fellow creators in lobbying the Justice Department to amend archaic consent decrees that are preventing rates for the streaming of songs from being adjusted to reflect fair market value in a digital age. That’s what we need. And then, along with those millions of new paid subscriptions Apple hopes to garner, we’d be in business. And songwriters would be fairly compensated for the content from which everybody else seems to be profiting...except us.
So C’mon Taylor. Wuddya say? Show us it wasn’t just about the Platinum. Go for it…bite that Apple…I don’t blame you. But come to Washington too. You have the muscle. And the clout. And the friends! We need you. Oh and also, can you please say something to Tim Cook (Apple’s CEO) about those first 3 months?
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