Now that they’re being paid, indie labels have signed up to Apple Music

Walk away happy.
Walk away happy.
Image: Jeff Chiu/AP Images
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It turns out all Apple needed to do to get artists to support Apple Music was pay them.

Apple once had insisted that Apple Music would dole out no royalties to artists during Apple Music’s inaugural three-month free-trial period. But following a widely-read Tumblr post from Taylor Swift, as well as outcry from other famous musicians, Apple reversed its decision.

Now, Billboard reports that Beggars Group and Merlin, two stalwarts of the indie music industry, have closed agreements with Apple that would bring their network of artists onto Apple Music in exchange for per-play royalty payments.

It’s not clear how much Apple will pay Merlin member artists, or other musicians who sign up for Apple Music during the trial period. A PR representative for Merlin declined to comment to Quartz on the terms of any agreement.

Merlin is a licensing agency that works with over 20,000 music labels and distributors to help them negotiate royalty terms with digital music streamers. On the artist side, it works with high-profile indie labels like Merge Records and Sub Pop—they broke Arcade Fire and The Postal Service, respectively. It then connects these labels to streaming services like Spotify and YouTube, setting royalty terms in the process. While the company takes a middleman’s cut of the royalties, it operates as a non-profit.

Beggars Group, meanwhile, owns 4AD, Matador Records, XL Recordings, and Rough Trade—four of the most influential indie labels in music. Founder Martin Mills has been an outspoken advocate for independent artist rights and also sits on the board of Merlin.

Beggars was one of the many vocal opponents of Apple Music’s initial insistence on providing no royalties to artists during its trial period. “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,” wrote Mills in a blog post from last week.

Apple’s quick turnaround and Merlin’s subsequent handshake illustrates how hard Apple will have to fight to popularize Apple Music. With uncompetitive pricing and a bevy of rivals, a free trial is the only way to get consumers addicted to its latecomer offering.

Without artists, that’s not possible. With them, it’s still tough.