apple-musicI don’t often talk about the ‘business’ side of music, but today is different.

I’ve always used Apple computers. I remember sitting in front of my Apple Power PC (just a grey box like all of the other grey boxes, I could just find my way around the software easier) wondering if I’d finally have to buy a PC as it really looked like Apple were going bust. I think it was an input of cash by Bill Gates that kept them afloat at that point. Then they got Steve Jobs back, out came OS X and the iPod, and suddenly Apple were back in business.

In April 2003 Apple launched the iTunes store. This one act changed the music business. Until then it was unthinkable to actually pay money for a download. Napster, Limewire and other file sharing services were literally killing the music business. Great for ‘fans’ who could get the results of their favourite bands for free, but utterly unsustainable for everyone else.

Along came iTunes and it changed the landscape.

It was also completely punk.

What I mean by that is back in 1976/77 when the Pistols were doing their thing there was an underground, self-produced music industry growing. The first single by the Buzzcocks was self produced and sold quite well, but the distribution wasn’t there. To get proper distribution bands still had to sign with record labels. The will was there, but the technology wasn’t. When Apple launched iTunes it gave everyone the potential of worldwide distribution of their songs without the need for a record label. So when I produced Herne’s Apprentice back in 2003 I was posting out CDs and selling them at gigs – I had no idea I could get my music heard overseas. During my first trip to the USA in 2006 I was constantly asked to get my music on iTunes, so when I got home I found out how to do it and suddenly I had three albums available in over 100 countries. iTunes was a gift both to the independent musician, and the lover of music. It took the power away from the labels and placed it in the hands of the music creators. Totally punk.

Soon others followed suit and Amazon etc joined the party. But Apple and iTunes made it the most current way to get music.

A few years ago Spotify and Rdio launched. They were saying that people didn’t need to actually own music, they just needed to listen to it. People paid a monthly subscription and that opened the doors to almost any song ever written. It’s taken a while but gradually streaming has grown. The problem for anyone earning a living from music is that the payment per stream is tiny, but there was no denying it, it was the way things were heading, but streaming hasn’t entered the mainstream.

Until today.

At 5pm UK time Apple are launching Apple Music. It’s an upgrade for iTunes (on both Mac and PC) and iOS (Android app is coming in the Autumn), and it’s their streaming service. Apple are a force to be reckoned with in the music industry so this could change everything. It could bring streaming into the mainstream.

It’s very attractive. There’s a three month free trial which is generous, and after a little kerfuffle with Taylor Swift Apple are now paying streaming royalties during that time. They are also paying a little more per stream than Spotify, and there is no free add-supported tier. They are launching a worldwide internet radio station, Beats 1, and Apple Music will also have a ‘connect’ feature which will mean that musicians will be able to post videos, demos, updates etc on their Apple Music profile (I’ve applied for mine but haven’t had anything through just yet). It all sounds good so far.

As someone who puts food on the table through music I am a little worried. I don’t know what would happen if everyone stopped buying CDs and downloads and opted for streaming. I don’t know whether that would allow me to keep doing what I do, the way I do it. One thing is for sure, the landscape of music will change after 5pm this afternoon. I’ll be ready for iOS 8.4 and am open to whatever the future brings. My music will be on there from launch.

Do you still buy CDs? Downloads? Or have you already opted for a streaming service? Do you think streaming is good for music?

Leave your comment below and let me know your thoughts.