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Another chapter to the Apple Music royalties story

Just a week ago we reported that Apple would not be paying artists during the initial three-month trial of the upcoming Apple Music streaming service. Then after a few days of unrest, pop star Taylor Swift got involved, and we wrote about Apple’s public change of heart.

The company decided to pay royalties during the trial after all. Swift gets to be a hero, independent artists get paid, and we all applaud Apple for listening to public opinion and making a change. Everybody wins, right? Or is there a third act to the royalties saga?

Trials and tribulations

The WSJ reports that despite the media impression that Swift justice has been served, the success of Taylor’s stunt all hinges on the as-yet-undisclosed amount that Apple will be paying during the trial. Eddy Cue tweeted that all artists will be paid during the initial three months, but nowhere has Apple confirmed how much this will be. All we know for sure is that “the rate will increase once customers start paying for subscriptions.”

Ha! Caught red handed, Apple, trying to weasel out of paying as much as everyone else again! Or – wait  – is that really what’s happening? Apple has already said that after the trial it will pay 71.5% back to labels, a little higher than the industry standard royalty rate of 70%. During promotional periods it’s completely normal for streaming services to pay out less than this – Spotify pays “about one-fifth” of its standard royalty rate for each listen on its free, ad-supported version. Surely Apple can beat that?

Until we see the cold, hard numbers, it’s impossible to tell whether or not Apple is planning to pay out less than it should. After being thrust into the public eye, we would imagine the company will be keen to err on the side of caution and pay out at least as much as other streaming services do during trials.

Swift hypocrisy

Meanwhile, is people’s champion Taylor Swift guilty of the same crimes she took Apple to task for? Her open letter sparked an open response from a freelance photographer, who claims that the contracts involved in shooting a Swift concert are pretty bad in themselves, often meaning photographers don’t get paid or lose many of the rights to their images. The saga continues…

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