Apple Music's Newest Expansion Plan: Luring Songwriters

Streaming service launches global publishing business in a possible harbinger of streaming music's future

Apple Music has launched a global publishing division to attract songwriters. Credit: Heng Qi/Getty Images

Big things are expected this year out of Apple Music, the music-streaming service that has far surpassed critics’ initial grumblings during its 2015 launch that it’d be an irredeemable failure. The premium-only subscription service now has more than 50 million paying users – and what’s more, the speed of its growth suggests it’ll beat out Spotify’s 75 million paying users by the end of this summer.

Ahead of that much-anticipated event, Apple Music is now ramping up its ambition as well as its audience reach. The service just launched a new internal division focused on music publishing, according to Music Business Worldwide. It is promoting Elena Segal, a former legal executive from iTunes, to be Apple Music’s global director of music publishing, in which capacity she will oversee “operations, commercial, publisher relations and A&R” divisions.

Apple Music’s global head Oliver Schusser, who just took up the role in April, hasn’t given any public statements on the scope of the streaming service’s aspirations in the music business. But, as with other plays made by the streaming industry as of late – Spotify going on a hiring spree for people to design physical products, for instance – setting up a new division dedicated to music publishing speaks well enough for itself. "Oliver is well aware that much of the most important artist discovery happening in the music industry today comes from the publishing side of the business . . . Oliver wants to underline the importance of publishing and songwriters to Apple," a source told Music Business Worldwide.

While it isn’t clear what exactly Apple wants to do with an internal publishing business, the possibilities are boundless. It could have an easier time striking licensing deals for artists’ music; it could start signing and developing songwriters directly. Many analysts have pointed out the practicality of Spotify or Apple Music starting an in-house record label, as such a move would offer the tech companies more control over their content alongside potentially scoring more money for artists. (There are even rumors that Universal Music might soon be bought by a streaming service.) 

None of that has happened yet, and the distribution-focused streaming industry is still a separate world from the record and publishing business - but their union seems more possible every day.