The website for Apple's new streaming service, Apple Music says that the company is "Profoundly passionate about music."
While the streaming service promises to be a great experience for music listeners, it is going to be a bust for the independent musicians who create the content of that service.
One obvious one is for Apple to increase their streaming rates. Right now they're twice what Spotify pays, but that's not as generous as it may seem. While major artists like Taylor Swift will still make plenty of money with this model, smaller artists will have a tough time even breaking even. For example, if someone goes to buy my album for $9.99, in the past I would have been paid about $6. Now I'll get $.002 per stream - I'll need a LOT of streams to make the same amount of money.
But in addition, one of the main qualms the general public seems to have with streaming rates is that all the money is going to go to labels anyway, not to the artists.
So I had an idea. It's a crazy idea, but it's one that IS possible.
It's an idea that's visionary and bold - two qualities of vision that Apple prides itself in having. Most readers will say that it will likely never happen, but if it did, the effect could be very positive. Revolutionary even.
This past weekend there was a moveON petition asking Apple to include album credits in Apple music, so when you click on a Miles Davis album you can see that Gil Evans was the arranger and that Paul Chambers played bass.
This would be a good thing for sure, but I couldn't help feeling a little sad when I saw so many of my musician friends passionately "sharing" it: wouldn't it be great if there was a similar petition asking Apple to make their streaming service sustainable?
So I thought of another petition. Why not petition Apple to take $500 Million a year and form an independently run board to provide grants to independent artists to cover part or all of their recording costs. Say between $1000 and $10,000. While this may seem like a lot of money, $500 million just a drop in the bucket for Apple - they're sitting on $178 BILLION dollars in a cash, a number which will likely grow in the coming years.
But for the music industry, especially independent and non mainstream musicians, this could be the shot in the arm that could revitalize their music economy.
I know their are issues with grants and these types of organizations, but I'd say that the benefits would far outweigh the negatives. I've spent the past two years in Vancouver, and while the Canada Council for the Art's budget is small ($125 Million with only $25 million given to independent artists) I've seen a noticeable effect on how it plays into the music and arts economy here, versus in the US. To be blunt, I'm getting paid more for the the small day to day gigs I have here than I ever did in the US. Musicians can apply for funding for their album, and these monies go to support the entire music economy: recording studios, side musicians, rehearsals, mastering engineers.
A guitar player friend of mine even just got a grant so he could study with the saxophonist Tim Berne in NYC. While the system isn't perfect, I have to say, musicians here seem to be struggling less.
If Apple were to give back directly to the musicians that are helping fill their coffers by providing the content that people fill their Ipods with, it wouldn't just be innovative: It would show that Apple really DOES care about music.
The Apple Music site also says that "This is just the beginning."
Hopefully the next step is an innovative and sustainable way of compensating artists, so that the laggard music industry can thrive once again.