Apple Seeking Lower Rates With Record Labels as Initial Deals Start Expiring

Apple is said to be aiming to reduce the share of revenue record labels get from streaming music as it works to establish new deals for Apple Music and iTunes, reports Bloomberg.

Apple is reportedly pursuing lower rates as part of an effort to revise its "overall relationship" with the music industry. Apple's current deals with record labels expire at the end of June, but Bloomberg's sources say they will be extended if a new agreement can't be reached.


Apple currently pays out some of the highest royalty rates with record labels receiving 58 percent of revenue from Apple Music subscribers, but it wants a deal closer to what Spotify recently negotiated. Spotify pays 52 percent of revenue from subscribers, down from an earlier rate of 55 percent.

Spotify's new rate is contingent on subscriber growth, and music labels are said to be open to negotiating a similar deal with Apple. Record labels also want assurances from Apple that iTunes will be promoted in countries like Germany and Japan, where most music is still purchased rather than streamed.
The growth of Apple Music hasn't been as detrimental to iTunes as labels had feared. But record labels are still asking for precautions. Labels have asked Apple to commit to promoting iTunes, and music in general, in countries where streaming isn't as prevalent.
Since its 2015 introduction, Apple Music has seen steady growth, which may give Apple an upper hand when negotiating new deals with labels. As of June 2017, Apple Music has 27 million paying subscribers, up from 20 million in December of 2016.


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Spotify Continues to Grow Faster Than Apple Music Thanks to Free Tier

Spotify today announced it now has over 140 million subscribers worldwide, including users that only listen to the free ad-supported tier.


Spotify last said it had over 100 million subscribers in June 2016, so it has gained around 40 million listeners in one year to remain the world's largest streaming music service. Spotify didn't update its number of paying subscribers, which stood at over 50 million worldwide as of March 2017.

By comparison, Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week announced that Apple Music now has 27 million paying subscribers, just weeks before the streaming music service turns two years old. Apple Music doesn't have a free tier, and Apple doesn't regularly disclose how many users are using the free trial.

Last year, Spotify vice president Jonathan Forster said Apple Music has helped, not hurt, their business by raising the popularity of streaming music services overall. He added that, at the time, Spotify was growing more quickly and adding more users since Apple Music launched, a trend that appears to be continuing.

"It's great that Apple is in the game," Forster told Reuters. "They are definitely raising the profile of streaming. It is hard to build an industry on your own."

While many artists remain critical about Spotify's free ad-supported tier, longtime holdout Taylor Swift reversed course last week and made her catalog of music available on most streaming music services. Swift's music was previously exclusive to Apple Music, only after Apple agreed to pay artists during its free trial period.

Spotify's revenue grew more than 50 percent, to $3.3 billion last year, according to the company's latest financial statement. The company has committed to spending more than $2 billion in payments to record labels over the next two years.


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Apple Music Loses Exclusive Streaming Deal With Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is making her entire back catalog of music available across all major streaming services, bringing Apple Music's exclusive content deal with the singer to an end (via TechCrunch).

Beginning today, rival services including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Tidal will all be able to list the artist's existing discography, including Swift's album "1989", which has sold 10 million copies worldwide, it was also announced on Friday.


The move potentially marks a change in the way artists see streaming services, which have previously been criticized for underpaying content creators. With Spotify boasting 50 million paid subscribers and Apple Music now on 27 million, the sheer number of listeners appears to be making up for the decline in physical album sales.

Swift famously got into a spat with Spotify in 2014 because her music was available on the service's free ad-supported tier. The singer said at the time: "I think there should be an inherent value placed on art," contrasting it with how on "Beats Music and Rhapsody you have to pay for a premium package in order to access my albums. And that places a perception of value on what I’ve created."

At the center of the split was Spotify's refusal to let any music only appear on its paid tier and not its ad-supported tier, which led Swift to pull almost all her music from the service.

Swift later berated Apple Music, when the service initially declined to pay royalties to artists if their music was played during the free three-month trial of the service. Apple later reversed course and agreed to pay artists for the free plays, leading to better relations with Swift, who went on to become a promotional figure for the service in several ads and even an exclusive concert film.


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Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ Television Show Launches Tonight

Apple's first original television series, Planet of the Apps, will premiere tonight, according to Reuters. The show, which was screened earlier today at the Worldwide Developers Conference, is set to premiere at 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Apple Music. Apple will also make the first episode free on iTunes and the Planet of the Apps website.

Produced by Ben Silverman, Howard Owens, and will.i.am, Planet of the Apps is an unscripted television show about apps and the developers who make them. The show is similar to other television shows like The Voice and Shark Tank, in that it features developers pitching their app ideas for a chance to be mentored by influencers and entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jessica Alba.


The advisors help chosen contestants build their apps and prepare them to ask for funding from participating VC company Lightspeed Venture Partners. In an interview with Reuters, iTunes chief Eddy Cue says Planet of the Apps answers the question of how to take an idea to a finished product.
"The question when you have ideas is how to take those to fruition," Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, said in an interview. "Sometimes you may not know how, you might be afraid of what's involved. This really shows how that's possible."
Filming for Planet of the Apps show began towards the end of 2016 and wrapped up in February. Most of the filming took place on an Apple-built set near Hollywood.

According to Reuters, the first two episodes feature developers presenting apps for online shopping, campus safety, and a school backpack, which will be featured in the App Store following the conclusion of each episode. Developers who are able to make it to the final round of the show will receive up to $10 million in funding.

Apple plans to heavily promote Planet of the Apps, with Cue saying "All of our customers are going to be exposed to this in one way or another." The show will be followed by Carpool Karaoke: The Series, another Apple-owned original series that is set to launch on August 8.


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Apple’s ‘Carpool Karaoke’ TV Series to Debut on August 8

Apple today announced that its first original television show, "Carpool Karaoke: The Series," will debut on Apple Music on Tuesday, August 8.

"Carpool Karaoke: The Series" is based on the popular Carpool Karaoke segment from "The Late Late Show with James Corden." Apple purchased rights to the show back in mid-2016 and showed off the first trailer in February. The show was originally supposed to launch in April, but its debut was delayed.


"Carpool Karaoke" will feature 16 half-hour episodes starring celebrity pairs riding in a car as they sing songs together. Each episode, produced by James Corden, Ben Winston, and Eric Kankowski, will feature a different host. New episodes will premiere on Tuesdays.

Today's "Carpool Karaoke" update includes a list of each of the celebrities pairings that will be featured on the show, ranging from Will Smith and James Corden to "Game of Thrones" stars Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner.
Carpool Karaoke: The Series for Apple Music will welcome a different group of superstars every Tuesday, with new episodes available exclusively to Apple Music subscribers in more than 100 countries. Celebrity pairings include Will Smith and James Corden; Miley, Noah, Billy Ray and the entire Cyrus family; Shakira and Trevor Noah; Game of Thrones stars Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams; Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith; John Legend, Alicia Keys and Taraji P. Henson; LeBron James and James Corden; and many more.
"Carpool Karaoke: The Series" will be available solely to Apple Music subscribers in more than 100 countries.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Tags: Apple Music, Carpool Karaoke
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

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Apple Shares First Trailer for ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’ Sean Combs Documentary

Apple today shared the first trailer for Can't Stop Won't Stop: A Bad Boy Story, which is an Apple Music-exclusive documentary that covers the rise of Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy/Diddy) and his Bad Boy record label in the mid-1990s, along with the 20th anniversary Bad Boy reunion show tour that took place in 2016.


The Bad Boy reunion tour is what led to Combs' partnership with Apple, after Jimmy Iovine attended one of the shows. In April, Iovine said that Combs' story is "incredible," "powerful," and relatable. "He really overcame a lot to get where he's at today and the documentary shows that," said Iovine.

As for Combs, he said he was "blessed" to be working with Apple to document the impact that the Bad Boys have had on fans throughout the years, including the death of Notorious B.I.G.
"I knew this was a story that should be shared with the world," Diddy said in a statement "Heather Parry and Live Nation Productions, and Director Daniel Kaufman, helped create this very special documentary. Now I'm blessed to also be working with Apple to showcase the film and share Bad Boy's history and impact with fans. The support Live Nation, Apple and everyone on the team has given to this project is a true testament to the Bad Boy legacy."
The documentary is produced by Sean Combs and Heather Parry of Live Nation Productions and is said to feature several legendary music executives and rare images and video. The trailer above, while shared by Apple today, was actually released earlier this week by Live Nation.

Can't Stop Won't Stop will be available exclusively on Apple Music starting on June 25. Apple has sole rights to the documentary for a one-year period.


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Apple Music’s Three-Month Trial is No Longer Free in Australia, Spain, and Switzerland

Since launching in June 2015, Apple Music has offered a free three-month trial in the United States and over 100 other countries around the world. In some countries, such as Ireland and the Netherlands, the free trial is for one month.


According to Apple's website, however, the trial now costs 99 cents in Australia, 0,99 € in Spain, and Fr. 0.99 in Switzerland. Based on our spot check, the trial remains free in all other countries where Apple Music is available.

The reason why Apple has started charging a nominal fee for the trial in Australia, Spain, and Switzerland is unclear. The trial was still free in those countries as of May 14, according to archived versions of Apple's website.

Apple Music rival Spotify's three-month trial also costs 99 cents in Australia, 0,99 € in Spain, and Fr. 0.99 in Switzerland.

(Thanks, Alex!)


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Jimmy Iovine Says Apple Music Would Have ‘400 Million’ Listeners If It Had a Free Version Like Spotify

Apple Music executive and recording industry mogul Jimmy Iovine recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Music Business Worldwide, reflecting upon his desire for more people to start paying for music.


The spread of free music has proliferated since the earliest days of the internet, starting with shady peer-to-peer services like Napster and LimeWire and progressing to legal, ad-supported platforms like Spotify and YouTube. Iovine thinks it's wrong, and insists artists should get paid for their work.

However, he admitted that free music is "so technically good" that many people simply aren't willing to pay up. In fact, he said if Apple Music were to offer a free tier like Spotify, it "would have 400 million people on it" and make his job a lot easier. But that's not what he nor Apple believe in.
I’ve put my money where my mouth is: Beats Music didn’t have a free tier. Apple Music doesn’t have a free tier.

I’m not just talking it; I’m walking it. That’s why I aligned with Eddy and Tim and Steve. They thought the same way.

I think what’s going on [with free music] is wrong. I just do.
To change that, he said "you've got to put everything into making the experience for people who are paying feel special."

Iovine believes that "people who pay for subscriptions should be advantaged," something Apple Music aims to accomplish with a lineup of original content in the works, including Carpool Karaoke: The Series, Vital Signs, Planet of the Apps, and an upcoming documentary with Harry Styles.
In the beginning of Apple Music, I was very frustrated; I tried to fight [Spotify] and all those things.

Now all we can do is make Apple Music such a special place that people want to come and that will encourage more people [to subscribe].
Apple Music has also had exclusives with major artists such as Chance the Rapper, Drake, Frank Ocean, and Taylor Swift, and Iovine said those deals will continue occasionally, but he admitted that record labels "don't seem to like it."

Iovine continues to believe that Apple Music will be "on the forefront of popular culture," a sentiment he has echoed in many interviews.

Interview: "Musicians Taught Me Everything. Without Them, I'm Working On The Docks"


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Visual Design Student Reimagines Apple Music With Unified Artwork, Better Discovery, and More

When Apple Music launched in 2015, one of the biggest complaints from users and critics centered on the somewhat confusing user interface of Apple's first foray into music streaming. Although the app was redesigned last year in iOS 10, concerns were then raised around the oversized nature of Apple Music's new typography and artwork.

This week visual design student Jason Yuan, who studies at Northwestern University, has shared a new project that he's been working on the past few months, which was sparked when Apple rejected him for a graphic design internship at Apple Music. Yuan decided to take Apple's rejection, which referenced wanting to see "more growth and training," and turn it into a new passion project focused on a visual overhaul of Apple Music (via The Next Web).


He said his redesign provides a few "potential solutions" to the service's problems.
At first, I was frustrated — Northwestern University doesn’t offer any sort of undergraduate graphic design program, so whatever growth they were looking for would have to be self taught … but as soon as I came to this realization, I became inspired to embark on what became a a three-month long journey to the holy grail — the iOS app that Apple Music deserves.

For me, this was an opportunity to really dig my teeth into UX research and design, an excuse to spend way too much time on Sketch and Principle, a reason to bore everyone around me with my notebook of crudely drawn wireframes … My process was guided by qualitative user research, Apple’s official Design Principles, and my own designer intuition.
One of Yuan's first ideas is called "The Sampler," which he pitches as a replacement to "My New Music Mix." The Sampler would be for users "reluctant to sit through an entire playlist full of new music," and would present Apple Music subscribers with samples of songs in a Tinder-like UI that they could swipe up to reject or swipe down to add to their library. These samples would last around 15 seconds and present highlights from the songs in question so users would immediately know if they like the music or not.


Any music that is swiped down upon is then saved to Yuan's equivalent of the My New Music Mix, taking out the automatic curation of content currently in place and making it more personalized in Yuan's design. Yuan said that The Sampler was inspired by the idea of gamification, which he argued would allow the user to create "an immediate connection to the music they discover," instead of just taking a shot at what Apple Music serves up to them now.

The visual designer also came up with more cohesive branding in Apple Music's album and playlist artwork, which he argued is currently "kind of all over the place," with a mix of collages, 3D typography, and more for various radio stations and activity playlists. To fix this, Yuan focused on the circular bubble art that Apple Music subscribers encounter when signing up for the service -- which also references the iPod click wheel and iPhone contacts -- while subtly altering colors and profile shots for the artist and playlist in question.


Yuan went on to address the basic UI complaints currently leveled at Apple Music, reducing the font size and white space of the app's launch tab while also introducing a new "Watch" tab for the service's upcoming slate of TV shows. He eliminated what he argued as extraneous UI additions, like the "Downloaded Music" front page menu option, and personalized For You so it introduces music based on location, time, and even recent social media activity.

The current Apple Music (left) compared with Yuan's redesign (right)

Connect is gone for good in Yuan's design as well.
Truth is, I didn’t see any data from my research that would justify keeping the Connect feed in the app as is. Users were more interested in connecting with friends and family through music (a la Spotify) instead of with artists through a watered-down Twitter.

I think Apple should focus on integrating existing social media with Apple Music instead of trying to push yet another one on its already overburdened consumers.
There are plenty of other highlights from Yuan's list of redesign ideas, including tweaks to Now Playing, Browse, Search, and how users love or dislike a song. Yuan ended his article saying he's happy with the knowledge he gained and progress he made redesigning Apple Music as a personal project, but never intended the tweaks to be taken seriously by Apple.

"I don’t expect the good folks at Apple Music to take anything from this case study," Yuan mentioned. "In fact, I might actually have a heart attack if anyone working on Apple Music stumbles upon this article… but if you’re out there, I hope my work was able to give you some ideas and spark some conversations!"

Check out the rest of Yuan's Apple Music changes in his Medium post right here.


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Apple Music to Share Exclusive Film About ‘Harry Styles’ Album Next Week

Apple today announced that it will be releasing the film "Harry Styles: Behind the Album" exclusively on Apple Music on May 15.


The film chronicles the former One Direction singer's so-called "musical journey" while creating his debut solo album, set to be released on Friday.

Apple shared a 30-second preview of the film on its YouTube channel today.


Apple's full description of the video:
Apple Music Presents: Behind the Album, a new film from production company Fulwell 73, chronicles Harry’s musical journey while creating his much anticipated debut solo album. The film features exclusive interviews and behind the scenes footage shot in Jamaica, Los Angeles and London during the making of the album and is complemented by Harry and his band performing songs from it for the first time at the world famous Abbey Road Studios in London.
Styles' debut solo single "Sign of the Times," to be included on the album, is already available on Apple Music.


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