Apple Music has created a $50m fund to provide advances on future royalties to independent labels, as part of its relief efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic. A letter sent to labels and independent distributors explained that the fund will be open to indies with direct Apple Music distribution deals who are making at least $10k a quarter from the streaming service.

“Each advance will be based on the label’s past earnings, and will be recoupable against the label’s future earnings. This offer is in good faith that labels will channel funds to artists and label operations based on financial need,” explained the letter. More details on the fund will be available on Friday (10 April) when label agreements for the advances are posted in the iTunes Connect tool. MBW first reported the news, while Rolling Stone has published the full text of the letter.

The caveat here is that independent labels who go through the distributors owned by the major labels – Caroline, The Orchard and ADA for example – will not be eligible. UMG had already confirmed that its measures including royalty advances will include distributed labels though. Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota has confirmed that his organisation’s members will be able to take advantage though. “We anticipate a healthy participation from independents seeking additional support options for their artists, employees and businesses during these trying times,” he told Billboard.

This is good news, although as with other relief funds involving advances (from collecting societies, for example) anyone taking up the option will also need to factor the fact that this is early money, not a free grant, into their longer-term financial planning. Apple Music’s move is the latest step in the various streaming services exploring what they can do for the music community alongside donations to funds created by the likes of MusiCares in the US and Help Musicians in the UK.

It’s not a competition, but the various DSPs will obviously be watching, learning and taking inspiration from one another’s efforts. We saw a rush to confirm initial, short-term donations and support, but there’s now an opportunity to also roll out a second phase of considered and focused measures based on the mid-term needs of creators and companies. Apple Music’s $50m fund is a good example of that, and we’re looking forward to others in the days and weeks ahead.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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