Last year, Taylor Swift and Apple Music had a huge public tiff, in which the pop star objected to the lack of compensation Apple Music was offering artists for streams of their songs on the newly introduced music streaming service. While Apple apparently capitulated, it has now come to light exactly what the company is paying for free trial subscriber streams — $.002 per spin or less.
Swift spoke up against Apple Music in an open letter she wrote when she apparently learned of the contract terms between Apple Music and artists, terms which provided no compensation at all for streams played during the three-month free trial portion of new subscriptions to the streamer. Since almost all new listeners were offered the trial, that meant virtually no payments would be made by Apple Music to artists during the first three months the streamer was introduced.
That didn't sit well with Taylor Swift, who claimed that she was fighting back against Apple not for herself, but for other artists who were struggling and relied on the streaming royalties to survive. After Swift's letter was published, Apple quickly about faced, and promised to indeed compensate artists during the trial period. iTunes honcho Eddy Cue, Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, quickly responded to Swift via Twitter, saying "AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer's free trial period" and then wrote, "Apple will always make sure that artists are paid."
What Cue didn't say is how much they will be paid, but now that number has been revealed thanks to some leaked documents and contracts. A leaked royalty statement courtesy of an independent R&B/Hip Hop label concluded that the companies' average payout per each free trial stream was $.0017. A leaked contract also shows that Apple promises artists a payment close to that amount, $.002.
So how much is that relative to what Apple Music normally pays per stream for paying subscribers? In the United States, Apple pays an average per stream of $.006005. So the payout for free trial subscriber streams is anywhere from one-fourth to one-third of the amount paid for subscription streams. Apple Music's main on-demand streaming competitor Spotify pays, according to the company, an average of between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream across its tiers of service. The amount per Premium, that is, paying subscriber, is significantly higher, while the amount per free stream is, conversely, much less.
Apple, although it offers a free three-month trial of its service, does not have a free tier, which is why artists like Swift ultimately prefer it to Spotify, which does not allow them to limit their content to only its free tier. That's also why pop stars like Drake and Katy Perry have been premiering their new material with Apple Music streaming exclusives while Spotify has had trouble attracting similar deals thus far.