It is not quite picking favourites between Spotify and Apple Music, especially when it has equity in the former, but Universal Music Group has certainly been getting a lot closer with Apple Music in recent months. Its latest move is around classical, a genre that has been dramatically underserved by streaming to date.
As part of its ongoing 120th-anniversary celebrations, UMG-owned Deutsche Grammophon has created The DG Playlist on Apple Music. Alongside handpicked audio, there will be video performances, although it is unclear if they are going to be exclusive to Apple Music. That video content includes the first full opera on Apple Music (Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette from the 2008 Salzburg Festival) which is presented as a visual album. The DG Playlist will be regularly updated while artists Daniil Trifonov, Rolando Villazón and Peter Gregson will curate Apple Music’s three main composer radio stations for Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.
“In a world where attention spans have become shorter and classical music content more ubiquitous, people must think wisely before spending their limited time and resources,” said Dr Clemens Trautmann, president of Deutsche Grammophon. “Together with our partner Apple Music, we aim to enable discovery and provide orientation to everything that is essential in classical music.”
This is not exactly without precedent. In 2016, Deutsche Grammophon became the first classical label to set up a curator channel on Apple Music. But more tellingly this is just the latest major partnership between UMG and Apple Music following the launch of the Peaceful Music playlist at the start of the month.
Deutsche Grammophon, as part of its anniversary celebrations, is already working with Google Arts & Culture to digitise previously unreleased material from its archives. But the wider efforts of UMG would appear to be around working much more closely with Apple Music – and there is an interesting tilting in the promotional balance here as a result. The most obvious reason is that Apple Music’s growth rate has been considerable and it is probably now the biggest steaming service in the US. It is still behind Spotify in terms of global share, but the fact it dominates in the world’s largest music market is key here. Plus there is the fact that, in aggregate, Apple Music streams are worth more than Spotify streams (due to a dilution process happening between free and paid streams on Spotify).
It is not going to be a case of explicit favouritism, but there is something of a sea change happening here. With album exclusives pretty much gone, there has been a subtle but noticeable recalibration in marketing plans around Spotify and Apple Music. Of course, there are still the huge partnership deals with mega acts like Drake, with Apple bankrolling various components of his Views album in 2016, a deal that bore more fruit earlier this year when Scorpion had a stronger opening week on Apple Music than it did on Spotify. But speaking to marketing teams across majors and indies a year ago for our marketing publication Sandbox, their efforts with the DSPs were explicitly about Spotify first, Apple Music second and everyone else third. More recent conversations have seen Spotify and Apple Music start to be treated as equal priorities, helped somewhat by the introduction of “pre-adds” (Apple’s equivalent of pre-saves) and the rolling out of the Apple Music For Artists analytics tools to compete with Spotify for Artists.
It is not an earthquake, but the ground is definitely starting to move.