Category: apple

Apple Music: A Review for Musicians

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Yesterday Apple released the latest iOS update that included Apple Music. This buzzed-about service officially puts Apple into the world of streaming along with Spotify, and Rdio. The update also includes a heavy emphasis on radio-both traditional live radio and custom stations based on user’s choices.

This launch is a big deal to musicians. Will Apple Music be able to make streaming a viable part of a musician’s income? Will its paid-only service be able to attract enough fans to make a difference?

The most important thing that we need to know right now, as a community of artists, is if Apple Music is actually going to appeal to the masses. Music fans are what keep artists going, and if any streaming service is going to work, it has to be backed by fans.

Does Apple Music Meet Fan Needs?

This release has garnered mixed reviews, but the general view is that Apple Music is powerful, but is busy and hard to navigate. There are great features, such as Siri’s ability to control the app and find specific music for you without ever pushing a button. The app also seamlessly integrates with your current iTunes library. If a fan wasn’t already a convert to streaming music, this app makes it incredibly easy for them to make the switch.

These things are great features, but they are somewhat overshadowed by the sheer volume of content in the app. It’s slightly confusing to navigate between the different tabs, and each tab seems to have about a million options. However, these slightly confusing problems are not deal breakers, though they limit the app’s usefulness.

If fans were hoping that Connect would bring them closer to their favorite artists, they were probably a little disappointed today. The Connect tab is pretty bare. This could change as artists invest some time into uploading content, but so far, Connect is fairly disappointing.

Apple Music for Artists

So what should artists do in the wake of this massive and highly publicized launch?

Use All Streaming Services Wisely

We’ve talked about it before, but streaming services shouldn’t be the main way you get fans to listen to your music. When used well, streaming can be an effective tool for marketing your music. However, with the current way that streaming pays artists, you shouldn’t count on it as a major income stream. Instead, leverage the people who find you and follow you on streaming services and try to take them from casual listeners to real fans.

Use Connect to Actually Connect

Apple touts Connect as a place for artists to post exclusive content to fans. This is great in theory, except that there is no way to monetize this content, and there is no way for artists to capture fan information. The word exclusive is also misleading, since anyone can log onto Connect (you don’t have to have a subscription to Apple Music), and you can post the same content on Connect that you post to any number of social media sites.

But Connect does give fans a way to look at your profile while their streaming your music. Connect has the potential to let fans and artists interact directly in the service they use to purchase music, and this is a good thing. You’ve gotten a fan’s attention, and you can use Connect to post content that will encourage them to engage with you further. You should use Connect like any other social media outlet. You can direct fans to your website, post about shows or new releases, or let them know where they can sign up for your mailing list!

I will insert a disclaimer into this: Remember when I told you I had a problem with Apple Music allowing me to claim my Connect profile? As of July 1st, this is still a problem. My music is available on Apple Music’s streaming service, but I can’t log into Connect to post to any potential fans. My account is still awaiting verification.

Apple should probably also be worried that artists just won’t post on Connect. This was Apple’s problem with the failed music social network Ping. Since the content that artists are posting to Connect is probably not different than what musicians are already offering on Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud, artists have to decide whether the extra time spent updating another social media profile is really worth it. Connect also doesn’t work from a desktop computer. It is only accessible through the iPhone and iPad app. This limits the service’s functionality, especially if you like to do most of your social media posting from a computer.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the fans. If the users of Apple Music love the service, and it becomes the go-to place for people to listen to their favorite music, than the creators will have to follow, or be left in the dust. (remember Myspace?)

We will keep you updated as we learn more details about how much Apple music is actually going to pay artists, and if Connect actually works to keep musicians and fans, well, connected.

Do you have any thoughts on Apple Music? Do you this this is going to drastically alter the way fans consume music? Let us know it the comments!




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Apple Music and Why Taylor Swift is Your New Best Friend

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

If you are an independent musician, this weekend Taylor Swift became your new best friend. Whether you like her music or not,  you should be thanking T-Swift.

Here’s some background info:

This month Apple announced the launch of Apple Music. You can read more about the launch here.

Apple’s streaming service will require a paid subscription (no freemium like Spotify) after a 90-day free trial. About a week after the announcement was made, a contract leaked that stated that Apple Music was not going to compensate rights owners during the three month free trial.

This put the entire industry on edge, and for good reason. Three months with no revenue is never something a business owner wants to hear.

While the music industry was trying to decide what to do with Apple’s decision, Taylor Swift stepped in.

She famously pulled all her music from Spotify last year, stating that she was not okay with people listening to her music for free. And she took the same position with Apple.

Swift announced that her newest album, 1989, would not be available on Apple Music during the free trial period. In her open letter to Apple she said “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Swift also declared that this was not a selfish move. She says “This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows.” She goes on to say that she is speaking up for the artists, songwriters, and producers who rely on this income to make ends meet. Swift asked Apple to change their policy, stating that the tech giant has enough money to pay musicians during the free trial, even if the fans aren’t paying.

Luckily for musicians everywhere, Apple listened.

Senior executive for Apple, Eddy Cue, announced over Twitter that Apple heard Taylor and independent musicians, and they will change their policy so that rights holders will be compensated during the free trial.

This is a big victory for musicians and creators everywhere. And we have Taylor Swift to thank for that. She was the catalyst behind changing Apple’s mind.

Why Does This Matter to Independent Musicians?

Something independent musicians lack is organization. That’s the nature of being independent. We don’t report to anyone, there is no standard network we all belong to. This is a great thing because it means that musicians are free to create whatever they want, with no fear of being told what to do by a label or other third party.

But this lack of organization is devastating when it comes to effecting major change in the industry. As individuals, we have no real way to influence government policy, and no power to affect decisions that are made by big businesses.

But today, we found a voice. Taylor Swift has the fan base, the fame, the influence, and the sales record to make Apple take notice. And Taylor seems to genuinely care about the future of the music industry for everyone, not just major artists and labels.

While we can’t expect Taylor to fix everything, she just accomplished a great thing for the music industry as a whole. And independent musicians should be thanking her.

We should also be having conversations about sustainable streaming on a regular basis. People are getting used to the idea of paying a subscription for music, and as we look forward to a sustainable income model for musicians, we can use that to our advantage. Things may not look so great right now. But we are in the beginning of a whole new music industry, and good decisions— like Apple’s decision to pay artists—are helping us move in the right direction.




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Apple Music Streaming: What It Means for the Independent Artist

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Yesterday, Apple unveiled its new music streaming service. While Apple’s release of iTunes revolutionized how the world buys music, they have been slow to enter the world of streaming.

The announcement came with all the bells and whistles that normally accompany Apple’s tech releases… but, for independent musicians, the announcement likely raises more questions than it answers.

The Basics

For the new service, Apple will charge $9.99 per month for streaming and radio services. Alternatively, users can choose a family plan (for up to six people) for $14.99 a month. Apple Music streaming will offer curated playlists, radio stations, complete integration with iTunes, and a new artist-to-fan social feature called Connect.

What Will It Pay?

Noticeably absent from all information offered by Apple is the amount that Apple Music will pay artists.

Unlike other streaming platforms, there is no free tier on Apple music. This is good news for the makers of music, as it should increase the amount of money paid to rights owners. However, if the payment structure looks anything like those of Spotify or Pandora, independent musicians will still be getting the smallest piece of a very small pie. The music streaming industry as a whole is not friendly to independent musicians.

It appears that Apple Music will not be much different, despite their claims in the announcement videos to help independent musicians build sustainable careers.

Will “Connect” Actually Connect Artists and Fans?

It seems that Apple Music is trying to compete with Jay Z’s Tidal by offering fans exclusive content at no extra cost. Actually, they are offering “exclusive” content at no cost at all. Anyone— even nonmembers of the streaming service—can access the videos, pictures, and music files that artists upload. This is not good news for independent musicians.

If you are working hard to create exclusive content for your diehard fans, you should be doing it in a way that creates income for you. (Ever heard of patronage?) By making Connect available to everyone, Apple completely negated the “exclusivity” of that content. In essence, it’s the same as putting a video up on YouTube. The key difference is that this content will link directly to your music and artist profile in Apple Music. It’s an important distinction, but it’s not enough. There’s no real way for your content to work for you on Connect.

Apple also did not address royalty payments on Connect. If you upload a demo of your new single, are you being paid whenever fans listen to that demo? Or are you cutting your losses? You spend the time creating a song and recording the demo—not to mention the money you spent on the equipment to do those things—and Apple hasn’t given any indication on whether or not they are going to pay you when fans listen to your “exclusive” content.

Connect also offers nothing new in terms of fan engagement. Fans can comment on the material you upload, and you can comment back. This is exactly what is offered on Facebook and Twitter. Connect is a downgrade when you look at its social media competition (Twitter and Facebook); even Spotify allows private messaging. The only benefit in Connect is that fans don’t have to follow you to see your content and comment on it.

Independent Friendly?

Did I mention that there is a MAJOR problem for independent musicians in the very structure of Apple’s Connect? As an independent artist myself, with music currently on iTunes, I decided to claim my Artist profile on Connect. This is what I found:

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.49.00 AM

I am a fully independent artist with no management company or label. Normally, I would just submit my information the management information and leave the label portion blank, since I am not signed to any kind of label. However, there was no option to communicate that I was not affiliated at all with a record label. I was not able to push the submit button to claim my profile until I had entered information about my (nonexistent) record label.  If Apple is touting that their service is indie-friendly, requiring artists to enter their record label information in order to claim their profile is not the way to go about it.

So far, I have seen nothing about Apple Music that is truly attempting to help independent artists.

What Should Independent Artists Do?

Apple Music’s launch simply adds to the ongoing discussion about streaming and its sustainability. Streaming is great for fans of music, but is this form of music consumption beneficial to the music industry in the long run? How can artists create long-term careers when their sources of income are decreasing in number and scale?

Independent artists have to change the way they think about streaming as a whole. When you look at streaming as a revenue stream, it falls short. No one (not even Pharrell) can make a living purely from the income generated by streaming. It simply isn’t generating enough money.

However, when artists look at streaming as a marketing tool that pays them, the game changes.

If you want people to discover you using streaming services, great! Put your music on Spotify, and Pandora, and Apple Music. Just don’t add your full catalog. Let fans get a taste of your best stuff. Post on Apple’s Connect like you would any other social media tool. Just don’t let these third party websites be the primary way that you interact with and sell music to fans. There are other, better ways to connect with the people who love your music.

In the End

Is Apple streaming a game changer for the music industry? I don’t think so. At the moment, it appears to be nothing more than a company formerly on the leading edge of innovation playing catch-up. Apple Music is not going to revolutionize the music industry.

Instead, changes and revolution will come from independent artists and the choices that we make as content creators.

For more information on Apple Music, check the following websites:

 




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