Indie Label Beggars Group Expresses Apple Music Concerns

Major indie won't sign with new streaming service due to three-month free trial where their artists will be "unremunerated"

Major indie label Beggars Group explains their reluctance to sign with Apple Music in a statement that cites the new service's three-month free trial. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

While Apple Music sealed deals with the three major record labels prior to announcing their splashy new streaming service/24-hour radio network, many independent labels have been reluctant to align themselves with Apple's upcoming service. Beggars Group, which boasts labels like Matador, XL Recordings, 4AD and others under its umbrella, is one such major indie to hold off from signing with Apple Music, as they explain in a statement titled "With regards to Apple Music…"

Beggars Group, like many of the unsigned independent labels, are especially apprehensive about Apple Music's three-month free preview offer to users, a period in which artists will not be compensated for what is streamed on the service.

"We are naturally very concerned, especially for artists releasing new albums in the next three months, that all streaming on the new service will be unremunerated until the end of September," Beggars Group wrote. "Whilst we understand the logic of their proposal and their aim to introduce a subscription-only service, we struggle to see why rights owners and artists should bear this aspect of Apple’s customer acquisition costs.

"We fear that the free trial aspect, far from moving the industry away from freemium services – a model we support – is only resulting in taking the 'mium' out of freemium," they continued. Beggars Group isn't the only indie label weary about signing Apple Music's 250-page licensing contract. "I hesitate to say 'everyone,' but a lot of independent labels are of the same mind – that it's kind of a raw deal," a source at a top indie label told Rolling Stone. "There definitely seems to be a coalescing of opinions to opt out."

In their statement, Beggars Group admits that Apple has been a "wonderful partner" for the past decade; Adele's 21, the top-selling album of the past decade, was released via their XL Recordings and was the bestselling iTunes album in history as of last June. However, Beggars Group questioned if they are "being treated on a level playing field vis a vis the major labels and their artists." They also question the "commercial and practical aspects" of Apple Music's Connect feature.

The label is hopeful that impasse can be resolved by the time Apple Music arrives June 30th. "At the moment we do not have an agreement with Apple Music that would allow us to participate in the new service," they wrote. "However, we very much hope that the obstacles to agreement can be removed."