Quick Hits: Apple should offer free; counting radio toward the charts

Brief news items and worthy reads from around the web:

Apple Music should have free access: Plain-speaking pundit Bob Lefsetz notes research from Cowen indicating that Apple Music has a churn rate (subscribers leaving the service at the end of free trials) of 6.4%, which Cowen says is three times higher than Spotify’s churn rate. Lefsetz prescribes a business strategy which worked for Spotify when it launched in the U.S. in 2011 — the free-listening tier which gets users hooked on the music subscription experience, and the Spotify app. With Apple Music (as with Rhapsody/Napster, which has been operating since 2001), it’s all or nothing, subscribe or out after a free trial period. Before that recommendation, the article dishes out an excoriating analysis of Apple Music’s mistakes, in Lefsetz’s view.

Should singles charts count radio play? Chris Price, head of music for Radio 1 and Radio1Xtra, gave an interview with NME about the status of the UK singles charts. He voiced concern that streaming and playlists are skewing the chart counts and are contributing to the top tunes staying consistent from week to week. “Either we should discount curated playlist streams from the chart, or we should include radio airplay,” Price said. “Radio can play a part in keeping things fresh.”

Brad Hill


  1. Music has value. It should not be offered for free. Artists and labels prefer Apple to Spotify. This is why some artists have removed their music from Spotify.

  2. I like the idea of a tiered pricing system like Pandora is thinking about for their on demand service that’s in the works. $10 per month adds up when you’re on a tight budget.

  3. Me personally – I don’t buy an artist’s album I’ve never heard of. I have myself a free listen. If the artist really did a good job, I buy the digital album (or LP if available) and maybe a shirt. If they’re outstanding, I’ll catch their show too. My favorite artists I always buy their new releases until they make a dud. Then they get put back into the new artist rotation. Not saying this is correct, or fair, or legal. I am a big consumer of music and quite frankly, not everyone is deserving of my money. Little 30 second samples on my laptop from Amazon does not give me a feel of the quality of music they’re wanting me to buy. I have to have myself a few sitdowns with it first.

  4. This is why many of people listen to the free tiers that many of these services offer: www(dot)musicbusinessworldwide(dot)com/almost-half-of-people-not-paying-for-streaming-music-say-its-too-expensive/

  5. As someone who has made the journey from Spotify Free to Spotify Premium, I strongly feel that Apple’s attempts to covertly kill the free version would be detrimental to the music industry. Music is increasingly expected by many people to be free. To not offer an option for free music isn’t the progressive path, nor is it in the interest of either the artists or consumers.

    • Free legal sources have helped curb piracy.

    • Keep in mind that it is the music industry itself that is against unlimited free streaming. They don’t mind sampling of music, with intent to buy, but for the most part the buying isn’t happening. People are just listening for free. The streaming services are caught in the middle. Pandora tried to put limits on free streaming a few years ago, and consumers were very angry. But the music industry needs to find a way to make up for the loss of sales revenues in some way. Meanwhile none of the streaming services are making a profit. Apple uses it as a loss leader to sell devices. The other companies don’t have any other revenue stream. The money has to come from someplace.

      • The selling of recorded music has never been lucrative for any but a small group of artists, nor was it meant to be. Recorded music was always meant to be a promotional vehicle for an artist. Only the record company was supposed to make money. The Grateful Dead understood this and promoted the bootlegging of their music because it boosted concert attendance among generations of fans. Radio was also a promotional vehicle for the artist, but I think most everyone can agree that it has been so homogenized that the discovering of new music by that medium is all but non existent. Only streaming music allows aficionados of any genre to hear and discover their new passions. Artists that discourage this will soon find themselves rendered obsolete and inconsequential.

        • Keep in mind that it’s their music. It’s their property, and it belongs to them. They can decide what they want to do, and how they want to do it. If that makes them obsolete, so be it. But we have to accept their right to control their art, if that’s what they want to do.
          If an artist wants to give it away for free, then they can’t sign a record contract, and they can only perform songs they write. Otherwise they’re making decisions with someone else’s property. But all of this is done with the presumption that everyone who likes the music will buy it. If the facts are saying that more than 50% never buy and never go to a show, then what do you do? Starve? We’re not just talking about the ten people who read this board. Not everyone lives that way.

      • You take away legal sources, people will go back to illegal, which doesn’t help the music industry at all.

      • According to a Consumer Trends survey by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), 45+ is the age group that still buys music and they are buying music from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s rather than new acts.


        • Thanks for that article David Cook Fan.

          As it points out in the following paragraph, the music industry is killing itself more so than technology killing it:

          “Many record labels have done away with artist development departments as they have focused more on creating acts aimed at tweens and teens. There is a concern that newer artists won’t have the longevity that many earlier acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson and Madonna have had. If record companies don’t invest more in developing their acts and ensuring they stay for the long haul, there might not be a big catalog market in the future to keep the music industry afloat.”

        • What you miss is that while older groups buy music, they typically don’t buy new albums by classic artists. Paul McCartney continues to release new albums today, and his current albums are outsold by current artists. Same with Elton John and Billy Joel. It’s rare to even see their albums in sales charts, while Adele and Justin Bieber top the sales charts all the time. It’s not like the music industry is ignoring older music buyers. Their music is being made and released.
          But none of this addresses the streaming issue, where people listen to music for free. It’s easy to say “the music industry is killing itself,” while you’re listening to free streams that are paying artists, labels, and songwriters less money than they make from sales. Streaming has replaced sales, and that’s a fact. Unfortunately, no matter how you try to spin it, a platinum stream will never pay as much as a platinum selling record. And very few artists, new or old, are selling platinum records any more.

          • Downloads, beginning with Napster in the late 90’s, played a role. People don’t want to buy whole albums anymore.

          • PeteyPablo –

            The trend I’ve been seeing, especially with independent artists is a shift away from full length albums and the re-emergence of the shorter 5 to 7 song EP.


          • Bieber may be popular now but I very highly doubt his so-called “music” will last for generations.

          • “Bieber may be popular now…”
            That’s what your grandparents said about The Beatles. However, if the trend continues, and people just free stream music, there will be very little music for anyone to buy in the coming years. Apple is talking about shutting down the iTunes store in 5 years because of lack of sales. I don’t know about you, but I like to get paid for what I do. Musicians are the same way. If their fans continue to free stream, it will be harder for them to devote the time it takes to create music. It’s not the music industry that’s killing itself, but people choosing free streaming over sales.

          • I second that Ethan. He’s an example of why most of today’s popular “music” is so horrible. If you want talent, you have to look beyond the mainstream.

          • The point that people are making is that there are more factors besides streaming into why music is selling poorly these days.

          • Everyone here is saying that great music is being made. You’re saying great music is available for free via streaming sites. You’re saying lots of people love great music. Yet even with the availability of great music, with a level playing field for hearing great music, and lots of opportunities for great artists to reach out to audiences and promote their music via social media and even conventional media, why isn’t great music selling better? And why isn’t great music that is being made today selling as well as great music from ten years ago? What happened? And what can fans do to ensure that their favorite artists don’t have to work part time jobs in McDonalds or WalMart in order to continue to have careers as artists? Some questions to ponder.

          • From what I’ve been reading, nobody here thinks that popular music today is great.

          • “nobody here thinks that popular music today is great.”

            What I’m asking is: With a level playing field in distribution with streaming sites, and the popularity of streaming, why isn’t great music more popular?

          • The impression I’ve gotten is that they are into indie music and are against the mainstream music industry.

          • Here is a sampling of how some indie artists feel about it. For a lot of them, exposure is of more importance.


          • Giving her email addresses would be against privacy laws.

          • Excellent article David Cook Fan! Thanks for it!

          • The key in that article is that she’s established. For a less established artist, it would be too risky to pull their music from these services.

          • All this shows is that artists must negotiate contracts differently from here on out. But continually trying to get more out of a company that already isn’t making a profit is a dead end. It’s getting mad at the wrong person/entity essentially. She should be glad that the music isn’t being pirated. Whether paid or ad supported, this is the picture…if she doesn’t like it she should do something else.

          • Quite right MironA. With piracy, she gets paid nothing. Total streaming payments $3,454.28 is better than nothing in my opinion.

          • The rumor that the iTunes store is going to close in 2-5 years has been debunked by Apple.

          • Agreed, Doug. Markets are cyclical, who knows if people will still want to rent music in 3 or 4 years. To exit the download market completely would be bad business.

          • If they get rid of their iTunes store, that will be the end of my business relationship with Apple.

          • In that article that David Cook Fan posted, one of them – John Vanderslice – brought up that the disparity isn’t just limited to streaming services but how different their pay is from one country to another.

            “You could be played on commercial radio in the states and earn like $5.31. You could get played once on Spotify and get point-zero-zero-whatever, and you could be played once on Japanese radio and get like $71.”

          • He also brings up that there are a lot of middle men (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) taking a slice of the pie. Yet another reason why I don’t consider the labels, especially the big three (Sony/Universal/Warner), to be blameless in this disparity.

          • Precisely right Soft Rock Chick. Major labels and big music organizations have a history of not paying artists what they’re owed under the law.


          • Myths concerning Spotify debunked. www(dot)techdirt(dot)com/articles/20120622/16193319442/myth-dispensing-whole-spotify-barely-pays-artists-story-is-bunk.shtml

      • I think it’s a wise idea for an artist to diversify beyond music.

    • Quite right, Jill. The music industry needs to accept the future.

  6. I usually buy individual tracks rather than whole albums. Spotify was good for this – you could set up a playlist and when you were happy with it, buy all the tracks. Now they don’t sell the music any more, and I can’t find a streaming service that lets you do this. It seems you have to stream in one place and buy in a different place. It’s inhibiting me from doing either.

    • That’s what I’m on the look out for – a streaming service that incorporates being able to purchase MP3’s in the same program. That’s why I read this site.

  7. All this debate about paying for music or not misses the main point – the quality of music. If the artist plays good music, people will buy the album, go to the concert.

  8. In the Apple Music program, on the PC version, the only thing you can stream for free are your purchases.

    On the Android app, you have to sign up for the subscription in order to access your purchases, which has resulted in a lot of bad reviews for it in the Google Play Store. Granted, it’s still in beta mode (I think), but they should at least let their iTunes customers be able to access their purchases in the app without having to pay a subscription for music they’ve already paid for.

  9. Apple has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board calling for a simplified way to pay songwriters and music publishers for streaming music.


  10. Mid-priced subscription is what these services need to offer. musicindustryblog(dot)wordpress(dot)com/2014/10/31/why-its-time-for-a-streaming-pricing-reset/

    • Multiple pricing tiers is what Pandora claims they are planning to have whenever they launch their on demand service

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