A bold plan for Apple to win music streaming back from Spotify

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/01/20/a-bold-plan-for-apple-to-win-music-streaming-back-from-spotify.html


It’s a lovely idea. It would change my fortunes significantly. I won’t hold my breath.


Couldn’t Apple just buy Spotify if they wanted to?

(Yes, I know, that isn’t the proposal, I’ve read the post.)



Digital music makes paying artists fairly a comparatively trivial proposition. Record companies on the other hand are rich from literally stealing from artists with the collusion of the law so it didn’t happen.


yikes. we can use anticompetitive pricing, and when we’ve captured the artists, we’ll have captured you.

i like the idea of a listener focused split. guess we’ll just trust them not to alter the deal after killing spotify


Sounds good in theory, but the reality will be that once Apple has captured the artists and killed spotify, the split will start declining from 90% down towards zero.


These seem like two different ideas, one of which is never going to happen. Apple has gone through long, protracted court cases to retain their 30%. The other concept seems impossibly complicated. Sure, if they listen to one artist, it’s pretty clear, but throw in potentially thousands of artists listened to in a given month, family plans and bundled plans, accounting would get extremely complicated instantly.


But it’s all just data and just needs the (maybe complex) accounting algorithm applied to it.

The debate should be all about the algorithm and Spotify’s seems, as summarised here, to be overly simplistic and biased - more complexity might deliver more fairness.

(But yeah - that’s where the debate is: what’s ‘fair’?)


they definitely collect all that information already: they know your listening history, and they’ve categorized it all to sell to advertisers. so yeah, it doesn’t seem that difficult to me.

once a month, walk the played list, divide either by the number of hours listened or the number of songs*, and add that ratio to the artist’s bucket. no big deal compared to the massive amount of data churned already

(* that choice is a doozy. ushering in the era of 1 second blipverts. tmbg’s fingertips suddenly makes them billions. john and john buy castles, and end their music career lobbing cannonballs at each other. the future looks grim, i’m afraid. )


Pipe dream. But let’s help Apple stranglehold another aspect of their business, all the sudden Samsung/Android users can’t get Apple Music on their phones once again, now to listen to Apple Music you gotta go get an iPhone. Which, let’s be honest, has always been their M.O.

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As much as I’d love to see artists compensated properly for streaming revenues, I don’t see this moving the needle very much for consumers.

Spotify doesn’t have more subscribers because they are a better streaming service (they don’t) for content or treat artists better (they don’t), they have more subscribers because they have social networking features that drive up engagement.

Apple Music is an outstanding streaming platform, but Apple seems incapable of building any sort of good social network around their network. They have tried and failed multiple times (remember iTunes Ping?) and I just don’t get how it is that they just can’t seem to get it right.


I think that Apple needs an iconic feature to really leapfrog Spotify. If I ran the zoo, I’d buy Turntable.fm out. Turntable’s rooms are a great hook for social networking over music, and could be used to build out a new network platform. I think one of the issues with Ping and the current friends list feature in Apple Music is the tie-in to Apple IDs. If you are in the Apple ecosystem, that AppleID is basically your Social Security Number now, literally tied to banking, credit cards, etc. They need to decouple your social profile from that.

Turntable was always fun but they never took off because they hadn’t figured out how to monetize, and the state of streaming licensing was still up in the air, so they had huge expenses and limitations on how they could stream music. Apple has a solid streaming license model for on-demand play and doesn’t have to rely on internet radio rates the way Turntable did. Plus, Apple could put some visual flair on the virtual listening gathering, with MeMojis, integration with iMessage, and integration with AR features on the iDevices and the Vision Pro. They could operate with a combination of curated and user-generated listening rooms, and tie the whole thing into the editorial content they already do for their streaming radio worldwide.


Artists want to come home. They want to come home to Dada Apple.

Is it still Stockholm Syndrome if they want to get away from a Swedish company?


That’s really the rub. Apple could theoretically do this (they won’t), but the reality is that streaming revenues are locked in one way or the other and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to be very lucrative for anyone but top artists. No one is going to surrender a portion of their slice, including record labels. As @bolamig points out, if something like this were to happen, it would merely be to establish hegemony in the industry and once the competition was sufficiently diminished, the rug will be yanked.

Yeah… that was embarrassing. Steve Jobs always had a deep reverence for the fairly limited range of artists he clearly adored, but a social network built around the idea just seemed to aspire to the equivalent of a hotel room full of coked-up stans talking past each other about King Crimson’s later work.

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I’d be curious whether this “fan split” would even work legally(without just throwing so much money at it that it’s a fundamentally different plan):

At least if you are talking compulsory licensing terms you pay per performance; not based on the ardor of the listener: heavy listeners have an outsize effect compared to light listeners because they incur far more licenseable events during a given period of time. I assume, in practice, the streaming services do some averaging out behind the scenes to try to make the numbers work without either visibly rationing the heavy users or raising the price high enough to drive off the casuals.

… isn’t taking a loss to drive a competitor out of business supposed to be illegal :confused:

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Being a hyper-local local type with possibly extreme anti-Big-Tech views who is often broke, I have never had a data plan for my phone and I get most of my music from a record store called Dr. Disc, here in downtown Windsor (although there are still a few indie labels I interact with entirely via the mail), so I rarely stream anything. I trust the store staff (mostly the owner) more than any algorithm for recommendations and value the human interaction.
Weirdly, I really enjoy the time it takes converting the different physical media into digital files to dump on my phone. I also don’t drive and Transit Windsor is usually pretty terrible so I have lots of time to listen to music via over-sized studio headphones that both keep my ears warm at the bus stop and make me look like I think I work at NASA.
I’d also like to recommend a great open source app from f droid called Nusic which scans your music files and lets you know about new releases and releases you don’t already have from the artists on your device.
This setup works for me and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Also, I can avoid a lot of “enshittification”.


if i can make a suggestion. i hear there are lots of well respected, capable people suddenly looking for a new gig.


I really don’t get why Apple seems to screw this up so much. I mean just integrate some basic last.fm style leaderboards and listening history tracking, and have better ways for fans to connect and share stuff. It’s not that hard and it’s not like Spotify is doing anything all that special in this arena, but people love it.


loss leaders are a well worn tradition. look at any gaming console for example ( excepting nintendo’s. ) my understanding is that, in the us, it only becomes illegal if you are using your monopoly powers to remove a competitor; not the pricing itself. for example, microsoft giving internet explorer away for free to undermine netscape. ( net… who? )

i think apple should fall under that umbrella. ( it’s still pretty galling that jobs named apple after the beatles’ label, settled agreeing for not expanding into music, and has long since made music a center piece of their platform. )