Apple Music vs. Spotify: In Music War, Can Artist Win?

Apple Music and Spotify compete to be the best music streaming service, but which is the most ethical?


Apple announced that it is entering the already crowded market of music streaming services with its new product Apple Music, and many are predicting it will have the power to shut Spotify down. But will live live up to hype? Music streaming was an idea that was developed in order to combat piracy that was on the rise since the advent of digital downloading. Since the conception of music streaming, many companies have entered the ring to compete for music consumers’ attention. But the question we should be asking is which is the most ethical? Free music has never been easier to legally access, but in this music war, can the artist ever win?


Spotify, a Swedish company originally created to combat piracy (which brings artists no revenue), has a simple 30-70 split between themselves and rights holders, respectively. Rights holders in this case are the label or publisher with whom an artist is signed. From there, the 70% revenue is divided between the label and artist based on their own contract. For some context, Spotify provides this chart for a rough idea of how much money different genres make on Spotify.


Spotify music payout, which we will compare to Apple Music payout soon.


These numbers are royalty payments that Spotify made. In other words,  it’s the money the rights holders made before they divided it between the artist. At the end of the day, an artist will usually get anywhere between 10 and 50 percent of whatever revenue the rights holders receive. A common misconception is that Spotify pays per stream. What is true is that your favorite indie band makes more money from Spotify when you subscribe for $10 a month instead of listening for free. The Guardian has more info on their business model here.


Apple Music

Apple Music, available June 30, does essentially the same things as the $10/month Spotify Premium, for the same price, with a few extra bells and whistles. Apple Music has already been deemed confusing yet unoriginal by some, citing it does too many things poorly instead of one thing really well. Music industry guru Bob Leftsetz has a grim outlook for the latest music streaming service. But This is all on purpose, claims Apple’s Jimmy Iovine. In an interview with The Guardian, Iovine explains that giving musicians and rightsholders the option to make their content free on Connect (the free component of Apple Music) or  publish it exclusively for subscribers of Apple Music, creating an “ecosystem” where artists can develop their music the way they want. Only time will tell what artists will actually make from Apple’s new streaming service. It has been predicted that payout on Apple Music will be about the same as Spotify, but nothing has been officially reported.


Indie singer-songwriter and guitarist David Lowery says the real problem for artists is YouTube, which pays much less than streaming services do and  does less to regulate and monitor its user-generated content.Higher-ups from both Apple and Spotify will tell you they are the only group standing up for the artist, which is a nice thing to believe but simply isn’t true. At the end of the day, both  streaming services are pushing users to subscribe to their monthly service, which puts more money in the accounts of your favorite artists. And that’s a good thing!


Author: Gretchen Pille

Gretchen is a graduate of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. She holds bachelor degrees Music and Advertising & Public Relations. Gretchen enjoys roller blading, opera, and playing ukulele.

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