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Apple Music Offering a 10% Boost for Quality Sound

ByHuey Yee Ong

Feb 5, 2024

Apple Music Offering a 10% Boost for Quality Sound

Apple Music has announced an initiative to enhance the earnings of artists and labels through its latest royalty payment scheme. This innovative approach aims to promote higher-quality audio by offering a 10% royalty increase for tracks available in Spatial Audio. The decision underscores Apple’s commitment to fair compensation for artists and incentivizes the adoption of advanced audio mixing techniques.

Embracing Spatial Audio: A New Era for Music Royalties

In a strategic move announced in a January 22 update to label partners, Apple Music outlined its plan to reward creators who embrace Spatial Audio technology. Spatial Audio, known for delivering an immersive listening experience, will now not only enhance the auditory experience for listeners but also financially benefit the artists behind the music. This adjustment in royalty calculations demonstrates Apple Music’s efforts to support artists who invest in producing high-quality Spatial mixes.

Music Business Worldwide highlighted the update, revealing that starting from the January month-end payout, royalties for tracks available in Spatial Audio would see a 10% increase. This adjustment is calculated using a factor of 1.1 for Spatial plays, compared to a factor of 1 for Non-Spatial plays. The introduction of this bonus aims to acknowledge and reward the additional effort and resources artists put into creating music in this advanced format.

The initiative is part of Apple Music’s broader strategy to encourage the production of music in Spatial Audio. Despite the format’s availability, the actual uptake by listeners varies. However, Apple ensures that artists will receive the bonus irrespective of whether subscribers listen in Spatial Audio or not, provided their music is available in the format.

Statistics from Apple Music reveal a significant engagement with Spatial Audio content, with over 90% of its listeners having experienced music in this format. Furthermore, the platform has witnessed a dramatic increase in Spatial Audio music plays, which have more than tripled over the past two years. This surge in engagement is accompanied by a near 5,000% increase in the number of songs available in Spatial Audio since its introduction in June 2021.

Quality Control and Device Compatibility

Apple Music’s commitment to high-quality audio extends beyond incentives for artists. The platform maintains a zero-tolerance policy against deceptive content, implementing rigorous quality control measures to ensure tracks meet Spatial Audio specifications. This policy ensures that listeners enjoy a genuine and immersive audio experience across all Spatial Audio tracks.

The compatibility of Spatial Audio with Apple’s ecosystem, including AirPods, iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple TVs, and HomePods, alongside the support from leading Android devices, Samsung Galaxy and Pixel phones, underscores the widespread accessibility of this audio innovation. With most new smartphones and wireless earbuds supporting Spatial Audio, Apple’s initiative is poised to influence the music production landscape significantly, encouraging a shift towards higher quality, immersive sound.

Apple Music’s Spatial Audio initiative positions it uniquely in the competitive streaming market, where audio quality and technological advancements play a crucial role in attracting and retaining subscribers. While Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited also offer Spatial Audio, Apple Music’s royalty incentive could set a new standard for artist compensation in the streaming industry.

Spotify, another major player in the streaming market, has been exploring the launch of a premium HiFi tier since 2021. However, with no release date in sight, Apple Music’s latest move further differentiates its offering, potentially influencing future developments in streaming services’ audio quality and artist compensation models.

Independent Labels Voice Concerns

While Apple’s initiative aims to incentivize higher-quality music production, it has not been without its detractors. Independent recording labels argue that the royalty bonus for Spatial Audio content disproportionately benefits major labels. These labels, with their vast resources, are better positioned to absorb the additional costs associated with producing in Spatial Audio, leaving smaller labels and independent artists at a disadvantage. Financial Times reported the discontent among independent label executives, who see the 10% bonus as exacerbating the existing inequities within the music industry. The concern is that the financial benefits of this new scheme will further enrich the already dominant major labels, potentially at the expense of the diverse and vibrant independent sector.

Independent labels have pointed out that recording new music in Spatial Audio can add approximately $1,000 to the cost of each song, translating to around $10,000 for a full album. For back catalogs, the expense of conversion to Spatial Audio could exceed $30 million, a sum that is prohibitive for many smaller labels. This financial burden suggests that only the industry’s most financially robust players can fully leverage the benefits of the Spatial Audio premium. As a result, the increased payouts to major labels for Spatial Audio content could reduce the overall pool of royalties available to independents, exacerbating the financial pressures they face.

Beyond the economic concerns, some in the industry question the assertion that Spatial Audio significantly enhances sound quality. While the 3D audio effects are acknowledged as technologically impressive, there’s debate over whether this improvement justifies the premium Apple places on Spatial Audio content. Critics argue that Apple’s push for Spatial Audio may be more aligned with its technological and product strategy, rather than a genuine enhancement to the music listening experience.

Apple Music’s decision to offer a 10% royalty increase for music available in Spatial Audio has ignited a complex discussion within the music industry. While the initiative is poised to reward artists for high-quality audio production and could set a precedent for compensating artists in the digital age, it also raises questions about market equity, the financial viability for independents, and the true value of Spatial Audio.

Navigating the Spatial Audio Debate

As the industry grapples with these challenges, the debate underscores the need for a balanced approach that recognizes the contributions of all artists and labels. The evolution of music production and consumption continues to demand innovative solutions, but ensuring these advancements benefit the broad spectrum of the music community remains a pivotal concern.

Featured Image courtesy of Chesnot/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.