Indie labels revolt against Apple Music deal

Apple Music may be missing some big names in indie music when it launches later this month.

Beggars Group, a consortium of independent record labels including Matador, Rough Trade, XL Recordings and 4AD, expressed its deep concerns about the streaming music service in a letter to artists and managers, saying “at the moment we do not have an agreement with Apple Music that would allow us to participate in the new service.”

The group represents popular indie acts such as Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, Adele and Jack White, among others.

The main point of contention seems to be Apple’s refusal to pay royalties on songs played during users’ 90-day free trial for the service, which launches June 30. Smaller record labels are more dependent on new releases, and would, in effect, earn no royalty revenue at all for new songs released between July and September.

“We struggle to see why rights owners and artists should bear this aspect of Apple’s customer acquisition costs,” Beggers Group said in the letter. “We fear that the free trial aspect, far from moving the industry away from freemium services – a model we support – is only resulting in taking the ‘mium’ out of freemium.”

Beggars Group is not alone in its concerns. Andy Heath, chairman of British music lobbying group UK Music, told The Telegraph that no British indie labels have yet agreed to Apple’s deal.

“Apple is sitting there with this massive pile of cash and saying to us, ‘you help us start a new business.’ Well I just don’t think it is going to happen on these terms,” Heath told The Telegraph. “Smaller labels would be completely screwed. Apple just has to move on this.”

Apple and the record labels still have two weeks to negotiate, and Beggars Group says it hopes “the obstacles to agreement can be removed.”

Apple will also be missing the best-selling album of the past two years: Taylor Swift’s “1989.” Swift has spurned all streaming services for her latest album, and her label confirmed Thursday that it would be unavailable on Apple Music as well. It hasn’t seemed to hurt her sales — “1989” is currently No. 2 on the Billboard chart, 33 weeks after its release. Swift’s backlog will, however, be available on Apple’s service.


At top: Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke performs at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., Friday, August 22, 2008.  (Alison Yin/Staff file photo)


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