Apple Music’s advance fund for artists during the COVID19 pandemic is essentially a loan


Apple Music has introduced a $50 million fund for independent musicians and labels who have been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Musicians around the world have been deeply impacted by the pandemic as all live event across the world have come to a standstill. Apart from this, many labels have delayed album launches. Many collaborations that musicians were working on with movies and TV studios have also come to a halt because all kinds of productions have stopped because of social distancing protocols and lockdowns across the world.

As I outlined a week ago, most independent musicians who are not attached to a major label and don’t have billboard top 50 tracks are mostly dependent on live gigs as their primary income as streaming services don’t pay enough money for anyone who has a sustainable livelihood. Apple is now doing its bit to chip in with a $50 million advance fund.  This is a welcome start but the world’s most cash-rich company but it needs to do more. Here’s why. 

  • The problem is this is more of an advance fund — it is not charity. It only entails artists getting an advance on royalties so that they have cash flow in this tough time where they are neither making revenue via gigs, or production gigs as TV/Movie productions have also come to a standstill. 
  • This is also only applicable to independent labels and distributors who meet Apple’s minimum quarterly threshold of $10,000 in Apple Music earnings which equates to around half a million streams. This basically leaves anyone with lower reach in the lurch. That’s going to be basically most artists in the world. 
  • These indie labels and distributors need to also have a direct relationship with Apple which rules out indie labels who have their music distributed via some of the major record companies in the world. 

Essentially, Apple is providing a loan to the “big” artists most of whom aren’t in dire straits because of the cancellation of all live performances. This isn’t what one expects from a company on one side has Apple Music growing at a rapid pace and also has the most cash on the planet. Independent need more support from Apple. Something is better than nothing and that’s the reality. Apple is doing better than its peers in the music streaming but for a company which has garnered its wealth on the magic of music, one expects it to do more. 

Fundamentally, Apple needs to improve the royalties it is paying artists as the streaming platform is growing faster than Spotify and the service itself is a feeder into the Apple platform. It also helps that Apple is insanely cash-rich.

This comes at a time when Apple is going all out in supporting relief initiatives across the world. It is also donating $10 million to the WHO and Global Citizen initiative One World: Together at Home benefit which will feature major acts like Lady Gaga, Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Burna Boy, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, FINNEAS, Idris and Sabrina Elba, J Balvin, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas,  Shah Rukh Khan and Stevie Wonder. This will supposedly raise funds for COVID19. 

Apple has been at the forefront of supporting relief efforts for the coronavirus pandemic. It has also given away 20 million face masks to healthcare workers in the US apart from also designing and manufacturing 1 million face shields per week. The Cupertino-based company has also donated $15 million to relief efforts and has developed a COVID19 screening app in collaboration with the US government.