I haven't spent a ton of time in California, but I've been there enough to know one thing: people in San Fran, Berkeley and Palo Alto love their farmers markets. They love sustainability. They understand that if the coffee farmer doesn't get paid a "fair trade" price for his or her beans, then the coffee doesn't taste as good, the farmer doesn't live as well, and in the long term the system can't sustain itself.
The quality of a sustainably produced organic small farm batch of heirloom lettuce tastes better than the pesticide laden shredded iceburg that you get on your Subway sandwich.
So I was really confused when I saw that Apple, one of the most innovative companies in the world, whose employees all live around San Francisco and Berkeley and Palo Alto, couldn't think of a more innovative and sustainable solution for musicians and artists when they unveiled their streaming service a few weeks back. Apple toutes their commitment to using renewable energy in the building of their products: http://www.apple.com/environment/
But they can't seem to apply the same logic to the artists and musicians that make up their Itunes roster.
Musicians have seen their industry cut in half since 2000. In 2014, the ENTIRE music industry brought in revenue of $14 Billion dollars.
That may sound like a lot, but Apples reserve cash amount is $178 Billion.(http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/02/apple-cash-mountain-grows)
Despite this enormous wealth, Apple initially wasn't going to pay musicians anything at all during the three month free trial period of their service.
That's like Blue Bottle giving away free coffee, but not paying the farmers for the beans. Not very sustainable or Fair Trade.
Now I realize that most people's images of a poor coffee farmer in Nicaragua versus a hipster indie band in Brooklyn are radically different. But despite this, why should the band in Brooklyn not be paid fairly for their work? Especially if it's helping make one of the richest companies in the world even more money.
Thankfully Taylor Swift came to the rescue and called them out. In less than 24 hours, Apple realized their folly said, "Yes, we will pay....at .002 cents per stream."
That is double what Spotify pays for their free service, but I'm still disappointed.
Streaming is the future, all musicians have to acknowledge that. I've subscribed to Mog and Tidal in the past, and having so much music at my fingertips can be overwhelming, but is also awesome. I can go from listening to the Slits to Art Blakey in an instant. It's great. It's convenient.
But .002 cents per stream isn't a sustainable amount for independent artists and small labels to be paid if they're going to continue to produce quality music. Music that people want to listen to.
So I ask Tim Cook, and Eddy Cue - can't you think of anything better?
How are you going to REALLY give back to the artists and musicians who have supported Apple products all these years?
How is Apple going to do what no other company has been able to do: make streaming sustainable.
If you're interested in learning more about Creator's rights in the digital age, check out the Content Creators Organization: www.c3action.org. I write this blog independently of their views and policies, but am actively involved in the organization.