Streaming is the new “next thing”, right? Wrong. Someday soon artists – major celebrities and those struggling to get a foothold in the business – are going to realize that streaming music benefits only the established large technology companies and the current big three record labels AND they’re going to abandon Spotify, Google, Apple Music, and all of the other services. There is simply no incentive to participate in these services when there is no upside to the artists creating the music.
If you’ve been paying attention to major issues associated with streaming, you know that Taylor Swift pulled here catalog from Spotify with great fanfare. You’ve probably heard that major artists are receiving very small checks for having their music streamed millions of times. It used to be possible for an emerging band to sell 1000 physical CDs or downloads and manage to come out ahead…at least a little ahead of the costs. Now if 1000 people stream the same album 10 times, the band receives pennies. It’s simply not sustainable.
The same model applies to little labels like AIX Records, 2L, Linn, Pentatone, MA Records and others. We manage to get by selling a few thousand physical copies of our handcrafted music. The economics almost make sense. If it costs $15,000 to record a typical project, do all of the post production, and replicate/package 1000 Blu-ray discs, then selling 1000 copies will cover it. Every sale beyond that first 1000 pays the artist and the label. It’s still not a moneymaking business but there is great satisfaction in producing well-recorded music. And once in a while a nice licensing opportunity comes along and some nice checks along with it.
So musicians have a couple of choices…give their music away for free in the hopes that they can build a following and secure some paying gigs or a short tour OR they can participate with the commercial streaming services and get only marginally more. It’s a lose – lose situation.
There was an announcement the other day that Apple has plans to provide “higher quality” audio this fall with the release of iOS 9 for their family of portable devices. As everyone already knows, they’re playing catch up to the streaming companies. Thus the high profile launch of Apple Music. I haven’t bothered to sign up for a free three month subscription…I just don’t do music that way. The sound experience is almost as important as the song for me. I know I’m the odd man out but I’ve become quite spoiled with the sound of my studio and my 2014 Acura TL with its DVD-Audio 5.1 surround system in it.
Apple has stated that the new iOS 9 will allow users to opt for “high-quality music streaming”. Currently, Apple Music plays at 256 kbps AAC, which is the same quality as iTunes downloads. However, this level of quality is only available if you are connected using Wi-Fi. If you’re stuck on a normal cell connection, the fidelity drops. With the new OS feature, Apple promises that users will be able to forgo some “extra data” in exchange for better quality Apple Music.
So don’t count on getting ever CD spec sound anytime soon on your new phone 6S. Whether Apple will ever give user access to real high-resolution files is doubtful. They may be late to the party but that party doesn’t include high-resolution music.