Amid all the blow-by-blow speculation about the progress of Spotify’s licensing renewals with major labels, it’s been easy to forget that – sit down for this revelation – other streaming services also have deals that periodically need to be renewed. Apple Music, for instance, which according to the Financial Times has quietly sealed its new deals with all three major labels.
Here’s the kicker to that: “Apple’s new contracts do not, however, include an economic agreement to bundle Apple Music with the company’s television service,” reported the FT, which has talked to four sources ‘familiar with the matter’ for its article. “Apple has told the big music companies that it intends to aggregate its media services, but the two sides have not yet settled on the details of a media bundling plan.”
This is the ‘super-bundle’ that we (and the wider industry) have been speculating about ever since Apple revealed plans to launch subscription services for video, news and games – Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade respectively. From Apple’s point of view (not to mention its customers’) a single, discounted subscription covering its range of services makes a lot of sense. Music rightsholders are wary, however, with plenty of uncertainty around how the royalties from such a super-bundle would be divided between the different forms of entertainment.
We already have cross-media bundles out in the wild, of course. Amazon Prime includes music, video and a ‘lending library’ of ebooks, for example. Meanwhile, Spotify’s aggressive push into podcasts makes its service a bundle of sorts, even if the royalties aren’t being divided at this point – as with other podcast distribution platforms, it doesn’t pay royalties to podcasters for streams of their shows. Even so, labels have been wary here, too, fretting about a future where non-music listening on Spotify might suck more time and royalties away from music.
Back to Apple, though. The lack of super-bundle provisions in its latest licensing deals could be seen as proof that such a bundle isn’t coming in 2020, as had been rumoured. Big content announcements tend to come in June at its WWDC event when that year’s new iOS software is announced, or in the autumn when new iPhones are unveiled and the software is released. A super-bundle may not be coming this year, but don’t write off the prospect before Apple Music’s licences are up for renewal again, if and when the company sees it as a strategic priority.