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Independent record labels push back against Apple

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Taylor Swift’s smash album “1989” will not be available on Apple’s new music streaming service when it launches on June 30.

Swift has pulled the album from both Apple Music and Spotify over concerns the streaming services do not provide fair compensation for artists.

Now, independent artists and record labels are crying foul, too — upset over Apple’s contract stipulation of not paying artists’ royalties during the initial three-month roll out. Apple plans to charge customers $9.99 a month for the streaming service.

The Beggars Group is the parent company of indie labels such as Matador and 4AD, as well as popular artists such as Alabama Shakes, Adele and Radiohead. The company put up a blog post outlining its disagreement with Apple.

Still, Apple is a company that is very close to the hearts, and wallets, of many musicians, many of whom use Apple technology to produce their product, while also making a decent living selling music in its iTunes store.

But is all of that enough to convince independent artists to give away their music for free on Apple’s new streaming service?

“Maybe,” says Jim DeRogatis, co-host of Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio. 

“The models are changing so quickly, I don’t know of any label, independent or major, that really has a clear idea of what Apple Radio, Apple Music or Beats Music is going to end up being,” DeRogatis says.

He notes that independent labels are right to be wary of any business model that devalues their product, but saying no to a company with the clout and reach of Apple is not an easy call.

“You know, many artists say, ‘It’s better to have people listening to my music, even if I’m not making any money, than not listening.’ ”

But others say the fact that Apple spent months and months hammering out special arrangements with major labels, only to give independents a “take it or leave it” offer, just isn’t fair.

Jesse Von Doom is the CEO of Cash Music, a nonprofit tech startup that provides business tools for musicians.

“You’re talking about a significant portion of the market that is dealt with as an afterthought, and that happened again with Apple,” Von Doom says.

“They’re coming to people saying, ‘Look, we’re going to do this streaming product, we’re the biggest company in the world, we have more money than God, and we’re going to ask you to take the financial hit while we onboard customers.’”

Von Doom worries that Apple’s move into streaming and away from retail risks killing a really important source of income for musicians.

“I think it feels to a lot of artists like Apple is trying to make music just another feature of a phone.” 

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