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Here comes Apple Music (closely watched by the competition authorities)

Last week saw the launch of Apple’s new music streaming service. This will clearly provide serious competition for the existing music streaming providers such as Spotify and Tidal. One important difference is that whilst Spotify offers a free version to listeners funded by advertising revenue, all Apple Music users will be required to pay a monthly subscription charge. However, Apple will allow listeners a free three-month trial of its service.

Initially Apple intended not to pay artists royalties during this trial period. However, it soon reversed this plan when the pop-star Taylor Swift wrote a blog post criticising Apple for this and threatening to withhold her most recent album.

The negotiations between Apple and the record labels are also facing considerable scrutiny from the competition authorities on both sides of the Atlantic. They seem particularly concerned that Apple may have conspired with or pressured labels to withdraw their support for rival streaming services such as Spotify that offer free versions to consumers. Although not clear, it has been suggested that the European Commission’s initial probe into this may have been initiated by a complaint from a company offering such a free version of its service.

On the other hand, there has also been considerable criticism of free music services such as Spotify. One of the cofounders of the Beats music streaming service, which was subsequently acquired by Apple, has argued that the free business model does not properly value recorded music. Likewise, Taylor Swift removed her entire back catalogue from Spotify, and the leading record label, Universal, is applying pressure on Spotify to change its business model. It is currently unclear whether Apple has been directly responsible for Universal’s standpoint. What is clear is that Apple’s entry will shake-up this market and the identity and business model of the future market leader is at stake.

Streaming sets off a painful debate in the music industry Financial Times, Jonathan Ford (22/03/15)
Apple’s new music service will push paid subscriptions, with free samples re/code, Dawn Chmielewski and Peter Kafka (08/05/15)
Taylor Swift is fighting the wrong part of the music industry Financial Times, Jonathan Ford (05/07/15)
Here’s what happens to your $10 after you pay for a month of Apple music re/code, Peter Kafka (15/06/15)

Questions

  1. What are the key features of the music streaming service market?
  2. What are the pros and cons of Spotify’s business model?
  3. Why might the views on free streaming services differ between small and large artists and labels?
  4. How do you think the music streaming market might develop in the future?
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