Apple Denies Allegations of Thuggish Treatment of Musicians

Contrary to claims by Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe, the company says it is not coercing artists into Apple Music agreements

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Despite reports to the contrary, an Apple representative tells Rolling Stone that the company is not threatening to remove music from its iTunes Store by artists who do not sign up for its new streaming service Apple Music. "It will not be taken off," a spokesperson for the company says.

The controversy arose when Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe took to Twitter with a series of missives alleging an official Apple rep had contacted him about the Apple Music service. The company is planning on offering the streaming service for free for its first three months, and it sparked controversy when news leaked that Apple did not intend to pay labels royalties on music streamed during that time period. Newcombe, however, claimed the company bullied him during his Apple Music negotiations.

"They said we want to stream your music free for three months," he began his tweets, collected in full at Fact. "I said what if I say no, and they said, 'We'll take your music off iTunes.' Hardball? Fuck these satanic corporations." He went on to write, "The biggest company on earth wants to use my work to make money for three months and pay me nothing – [if] I say no, I'm banned.... My guess is that they will come out of the gate with shit streaming for free or low cost then blow everyone away with higher quality streams. Devils. They shouldn't threaten people to work for free. It's not ok for these fucking idiots to decide art has no value."

A representative for Newcombe did not immediately reply to a request for comment or evidence of these tactics. 

When Apple's streaming service launches later this month, it will be facing formidable competition. Spotify added video and original programing last month, and it announced a new partnership with Starbucks. Meanwhile, Jay Z's megastar-endorsed Tidal – despite its CEO leaving and its app falling out of the iTunes store's most downloaded apps chart – continues to feature exclusive content from Jay Z and Madonna, among others. This competition is likely why Apple Music is testing a market penetration system, offering its service for free before switching to paid and scaled-down free options that will complement a free radio program.

When Rolling Stone asked Apple executive Eddy Cue about the difficulty of getting labels on board for the company's three-month trial period when the service was announced, he said, "There's lots of negotiations that go on with all of that." In the same interview, Jimmy Iovine addressed the general concern among artists who want to be fairly compensated by streaming services. "A lot of artists are confused," he said. "If you get 100 million streams on a song and you're only being paid on 20 percent, the check's not going to look good. The money's not going to look fair."

Asked how Apple Music would improve that, Cue addressed consumer perceptions. "People will pay for great services," he said. "They said they wouldn't pay 99 cents for a song but they did. We've always believed that. When you go to work, you don't work for free; nobody works for free. Nobody can say, 'I want to work for free.' Nobody says that."

Apple Music's three-month free trial begins on June 30th.