Apple is now facing the prospect of a ‘massive withdrawal’ from a ‘very large group of indie’ artists and labels from Apple Music, according to multiple sources speaking with Digital Music News this weekend. That includes some of the largest independent artists on the planet, including Adele, The National, Alabama Shakes, and quite possibly, Radiohead, already a vocal opponent of streaming royalty payments (or lack thereof).
Given the brewing dissatisfaction over egregious Apple terms, it was estimated that more than 50 percent of indie artists will be absent during Apple’s critical launch period this summer.
According to more than four separate sources, including a pair a well-known independent labels, most of the artists and labels will keep their catalogs available for traditional download on the iTunes Store, but will opt out of streaming aspects.
“I don’t need to call Apple to tell them, ‘deal with this, or you’re looking at more than 70 percent of the indies holding out,'” explained one head of a large independent label. “This is just very clearly a raw deal.”
For those just tuning in, the major sticking point is a decision by Apple not to pay any royalties to artists during a gratis, three-month period. That was spelled out in no uncertain terms in an Apple contract sent to indies, and of course, leaked to Digital Music News.
Since then, fecal matter has been floating towards the fan. In reaction, powerful, US-based independent label organization A2IM issued a letter warning its members to exercise extreme caution, or simply wait to license. “Since a sizable percentage of Apple’s most voracious music consumers are likely to initiate their free trials at launch, we are struggling to understand why rights holders would authorize their content on the service before October 1,” the note advised.
”Please do not feel rushed to sign Apple’s current offer.”
Now, that message is reverberating throughout the industry, with most indies deciding to either (a) wait until after the initial three-month free window lapses on September 30th, (b) demand Apple change its payout terms, or (c) both.
Meanwhile, a number of artists and independent distributors are closely examining ways to opt-out of the streaming service themselves. On Friday, independent artist Zoë Keating took to Digital Music News and noted that opting out is actually easy through the iTunes Connect interface, while distributors like DistroKid have already indicated that pulling out is not an issue.
More as it develops…