The Wild West of business models since music went digital hasn’t worked out very well for musicians. The old record labels that controlled the industry might have been good for the artists they turned into stars, but they weren’t particularly good for the average musician. When musicians suddenly could record, release and promote their own music, reaching fans directly, there was the brief hope that artists would have more control and that more musicians could make a good living. Hasn’t turned out that way so far.
And now, the big streaming companies and social media platforms are consolidating their power, and it’s starting to look like a new set of power brokers are emerging. Apple, for example:
Since its debut in the summer of 2015, Apple Music has separated itself from Spotify, the industry’s streaming leader, by trying to become a one-stop shop for major artists — part platform and part promoter.
“I don’t think anybody could argue against the incredible value of Apple marketing,” said David Bakula, a senior music analyst for Nielsen. “There are artists they latch onto and say, ‘This is something we are going to heavily promote.’ It makes one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world a sort of tastemaker.”
So Apple is both the platform and the promoter. Meaning? Meaning that Apple is increasingly owning the front and back ends of the business. Be an Apple artist and you get preference and prominence in the huge iTunes/Apple eco-system. So if you’re not part of the Apple family? Will anyone be able to find your music?