Can the mighty Apple machine really persuade us to start paying for music again?
Is 2015 the year when the notion of getting your music for free bites the dust? That might be one takeaway from a current reading of the runes, as record labels and streaming services flex their muscles.
For both sides, getting punters to pay for music subscriptions rather than rely solely on ad-supported services is the ideal end game. Yet there are still many inside the tent on both sides who rightly caution that such a pay-to-play policy could well turn the clock back to the bad old days.
Consider the facts. Thanks to such legal streaming services as Soundcloud, YouTube and Spotify, a sizeable dent has been made in the piracy ship. A majority of punters seem happy to put up with ads in return for their music or even pay a reasonable monthly tariff to avoid those ads.
But there are many in the music industry who are still not at all happy handing their music over to the likes of Spotify, who can then pull in customers to hear the music for free or certainly less than cost in terms of the ad take. There are probably shades of 1980s label execs objecting to giving videos for free to MTV here, but nonetheless, the argument does persist in some quarters.
Enter Apple. Just as it was Apple who turned the record industry on its head with the iTunes store – or rather made the process behind purchasing downloads as easy as buying a flat white – their new streaming service will provide timely competition for current market leader Spotify when it goes live later this year.
Early indications are that Apple won’t be providing any free lunches for users and this is just what the labels want to hear. With 800 million-plus iTunes accounts to call on, Apple will be hoping that their hard-won reputation, not to mention the input of such superstar curatorial hires as former Beeb DJ Zane Lowe, will entice punters to pony up from the get-go for the service. If that doesn’t work, they can always threaten users with another U2 album.
But this isn’t April 2003 ,when the iTunes store first debuted and began flogging digital files. A whole generation of music fans have grown up and grown used to getting their music for free via YouTube or wherever. Are they really going to flip and start paying for Apple or Spotify or even YouTube’s Music Key service?
Just because the labels want a payment model for every stream, it doesn’t necessarily mean this will happen, as we know only too well from the past 15 years of covering the sector. In fact, the opposite is more likely.
The more record label wiseguys demand shekels, the more pushback is likely from fans who’ve grown used to consuming music legally and for free. The labels and streaming services currying favour with them by telling them what they want to hear need to remember that the bad old days of piracy and skullduggery have not completely gone away. They don’t really want us to dust off and rewrite those Pirate Bay stories, do they? YOU’VE GOT TO HEAR THIS Gal Costa Gal Costa (Philips) A mention in an interview with Natalie Prass sent us back to this beautiful 1968 album from the Brazilian singer. A record of rich, vibrant, sweet and sunny sounds, it was Gal Costa getting her psych side on and mingling the pop and bossa nova of old with the freestyle vibes and politically charged heft of the incoming tropicalia movement. ETC All roads lead to Leitrim for electronic music fans at Easter with the return of the Phase One festival. The electronic music event’s third outing will feature Horse Meat Disco, Jape, Fish Go Deep, Sleep Thieves, Elaine Mai, Donal Dineen, Nanu Nanu, Grounds for Invasion and many more. It’s at The Dock in Carrick-On- Shannon on April 4th and 5th. More information from phaseonefestival.com