Apple Music Signs over 20,000 Indie Labels

Apple Music has received endorsements and signed contracts with a few major indie music agencies: Beggars Group, the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), and the Merlin Network. These agencies represent more than 20,000 indie labels and distributors, so this is a very big win for Apple. The development comes in the wake of Apple’s reversal in its policy for paying musicians who will be participating in the company’s much anticipated new music streaming service.

“I am pleased to say that Apple has made a decision to pay for all usage of Apple Music under the free trials on a per-play basis, as well as to modify a number of other terms that members had been communicating directly with Apple about,” said Charles Caldas, who is the CEO of Merlin. “With these changes, we are happy to support the deal.”

Beggars Group is a British music agency that has been a notorious holdout with streaming services. The company distributes labels like 4AD, Rough Trade, and Matador Records, representing such artists as Radiohead and Arcade Fire. The Worldwide Independent Network is an organization that was founded in 2006 to address business and market access issues faced by indie artists.

The media frenzy surrounding the upcoming launch of the Apple Music streaming service is in large part due to the open letter penned by Taylor Swift earlier this week. In a series of tweets released yesterday, Pandora co-founder and former CTO Tom Conrad called the Swift/Apple exchange “mostly theater.” He added that Apple most likely reversed its payment policy in order to win the endorsements of indie labels, and that Taylor Swift is getting all the credit in this “David and Goliath” type situation. In reality, Taylor Swift is far too much of a mainstream heavyweight to really claim to be the voice of struggling indie artists.

Conrad also stated that there is “nothing here to suggest Apple treats artists more fairly than anyone else.” He points out that Apple’s decision to actually pay artists during the free trial simply puts Apple in line with every other legitimate streaming service, and thus is nothing to celebrate. Apple Music is scheduled to launch on June 30, although this date has been undercut by Google’s recent release of its own streaming service, Google Music.