Last year, lab-created perfect human Taylor Swift sent a shiver down the collective spine of the streaming-music industry when she yanked all her music from Spotify. Her argument, while hardly airtight, basically boiled down to the belief that free-streaming services grossly devalue the work of the musicians; it’s why you can find her catalog on paid subscription services, like, say, Rdio.
“I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music,” she said at the time. “And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”
Apple apparently agrees. Following the acquisition of Beats last year, the company is gearing up for the launch of a new streaming service at its World Wide Developer Conference in June, which it hopes will supplant Spotify on top of the digital music perch. On Friday, Re/code reported that the new streaming service—which will presumably be built off Beats Music’s existing architecture—won’t have a free tier, and the company is using subscriptions as part of its pitch to win the cooperation of record labels. Here’s Peter Kafka:
Apple executives, led by media head Eddy Cue and Beats Music founder Jimmy Iovine, have been arguing that the music business “needs to get behind a paywall,” say people who have talked to them. Apple bought Beats last year, partly to help it gain a foothold on streaming music just as iTunes sales of digital downloads had started to drop.
Now Apple is negotiating with the music labels for licenses for a revamped version of Beats. Sources say Apple would like to make a splash by getting high-profile artists to distribute their music with Apple before it makes its way to other services.
Apple is saddling up with an increasingly vocal group of artists who feel that the free tier of the streaming industry is fundamentally problematic. In a recent interview with Fast Company, Björk said that she declined to release her intensely personal new album on Spotify because—as she put it—free streaming “just seems insane.”
She did, however, offer an off-the-cuff compromise: “[M]aybe Netflix is a good model,” she said. “You go first to the cinema and after a while it will come on Netflix. Maybe that’s the way to go with streaming. It’s first physical and then maybe you can stream it later.”