Apple has announced an incentive program to encourage more artists and labels to create music in Spatial Audio for its Apple Music streaming service. Artists stand to earn up to 10% higher royalties when fans stream songs available in Spatial Audio on Apple Music.
What is Apple’s Spatial Audio and How Will Artists Earn More?
Apple’s Spatial Audio is the company’s branded implementation of immersive audio technologies like Dolby Atmos. It aims to provide an immersive sound experience by using directional audio filters to make music feel like its coming at you from all directions.
Apple Music subscribers can listen to thousands of Spatial Audio tracks using compatible AirPods models or Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. Spatial Audio also works through the built-in speakers on various iPhone, iPad and Mac models.
According to Apple’s updated royalty policy, artists and labels will earn:
- Up to 10% higher royalty rate for plays of Dolby Atmos tracks available in Spatial Audio
- The standard royalty rate for stereo and other non-Spatial Audio tracks
The exact Spatial Audio royalty rates depend on the artist’s streaming deal with their label and distributor. But Apple is clearly hoping to incentivize more immersive music content in Spatial Audio by promising this royalty bump.
Why Apple Wants More Spatial Audio Content
Immersive audio has been a key focus area for the entire music industry, as it tries to improve the quality of music streaming to attract more subscribers.
According to a MusicWatch study in 2021, over 40% of US customers were listening to spatial audio tracks at least once a week. Apple wants to capitalize on this growing interest by having the largest catalog of immersive music.
However, mixing and mastering songs into spatial audio requires specialized effort from sound engineers. Many older catalog songs would likely need to be re-mixed to take advantage of directional audio capabilities.
By paying artists and labels a financial incentive to create more Spatial Audio tracks, Apple likely aims to rapidly expand its catalog size to stay ahead of competitors like Spotify, Amazon Music and Tidal which also offer various forms of immersive audio.
Early Reactions from the Music Industry
The music industry has welcomed Apple’s royalty rate incentive for Spatial Audio. Artists and smaller indie labels could benefit financially from having immersive versions of their songs on Apple Music.
Merck Mercuriadis, CEO of Hipgnosis Song Management, said in a statement:
“This is the beginning of a revolution in how we hear our favorite songs and Hipgnosis, with over 65,000 songs from icons like Nile Rogers, Blondie and Lindsey Buckingham, is perfectly positioned to take advantage for the benefit of our songwriters.”
However, some analysts have questioned if the higher 10% royalty rate will be sufficient incentive, given the high production costs of spatial audio.
An anonymous major label executive told Music Business Worldwide:
“The concern among some people is whether this extra 10% or so will even cover the costs of creating Dolby Atmos mixes of catalogue tracks. There are definitely questions about whether this slight royalty bump will actually persuade rights-holders to start investing more heavily in spatial audio.”
What Songs are currently available in Spatial Audio?
As of January 2024, Apple Music has thousands of tracks available in Lossless Audio or Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos. Genres range from classical, hiphop, pop and rock.
Some popular examples include:
- Folklore and Midnights by Taylor Swift
- After Hours by The Weeknd
- Sour by Olivia Rodrigo
- Planet Her by Doja Cat
- An Evening With Silk Sonic by Bruno Mars & Anderson Paak
To browse the current Spatial Audio catalog, Apple Music subscribers can go to the Listen Now tab or search directly for “Spatial Audio”. You can also ask Siri to play Spatial Audio songs.
|Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak
|An Evening With Silk Sonic
Table showing some popular albums available on Apple Music in Spatial Audio
Apple has not provided specifics on how many tracks or albums are currently available in Spatial Audio. But the total catalog size is likely still much smaller than the over 100 million overall songs available on the streaming service.
What’s Next for Immersive Audio?
The music industry was initially skeptical about the potential of spatial audio, due to high content production costs and compatibility issues.
But Apple’s high profile endorsement and royalty bump for Spatial Audio will likely kickstart a new wave of spatial audio releases in 2024. Record labels want to be associated with the latest innovations that Apple is prioritizing.
And all the major streaming platforms – Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Tidal and Deezer – already support some form of 3D or immersive audio. So market competition will also force labels to release more of such premium content.
As more subscribers listen on spatial audio capable devices like AirPods Max headphones, consumer demand is also expected to steadily rise over the next few years.
Both artists and fans can look forward to more immersive music experiences as spatial audio gets increasingly mainstream in 2024. Apple Music has taken a vital step to catalyze more adoption of the technology.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.