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Apple Music fails as a streaming alternative

By Jason Herring, September 17 2015 —

As I near the end of my three-month trial period on Apple Music, I’ve started to consider whether or not I want to buy a subscription for the service. I like Apple Music a lot — the app is cleanly laid out and easy to use, the auto-suggested playlists are well-made and it gives me the opportunity to listen to some albums I’ve been meaning to check out.

But these are all things I can get for free in other places. Websites like last.fm provide me with artist recommendations. I can go to 8tracks for playlists, and there are very few albums I can’t find online. When I have other sources for everything Apple Music does, $10 a month is a tough sell.

There’s one factor that would sway me into renewing my subscription — adequate artist compensation. Streaming services are notoriously bad for reimbursing artists for streamed plays, to the point where it takes the average artist 3349 Spotify plays to earn $1 from the service. If I’m going to pay to stream music, I want to know that artists are actually going to see a reasonable amount of money.

Tim Cook's wallet is fat enough without skimping on Apple Music artist royalties. // Courtesy Mike Deerkoski

Tim Cook’s wallet is fat enough without skimping on Apple Music artist royalties. // Courtesy Mike Deerkoski

Apple claims they give 0.2 cents to artists for each play, meaning that it takes 500 plays to earn $1. It’s a lot better than alternative streaming services, but it’s still not good enough. While popular artists can generate enough plays to earn a sizable cheque, lesser-known bands will continue to get pennies on the dollar.

And it’s not as if Apple can’t afford to give artists the compensation they deserve. Their Q3 2015 net profit was $10.7 billion dollars — and that’s without any of the potential profit they’ll be receiving from Apple Music subscriptions once everyone’s free trial runs out. The company certainly has the ability to allocate money to artist royalties, but it chooses not to. That $10 a month isn’t padding the artists’ pockets.

I won’t renew my subscription to Apple Music next month. I hope to continue supporting musicians by attending their shows and picking up a record or two at the merch table, though. At least then I’ll know they’re seeing the money.

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