Apple Music will give higher royalty payments to music released on the streaming service in the more immersive Spatial Audio, the company announced on Monday.
“As our technologies continue to evolve to allow artists everywhere to make higher-quality content than ever, we believe artists should be properly rewarded for it,” Apple Music said in its announcement to partners and reviewed by Rolling Stone.
The company said that the change will begin starting with January’s month-end royalty payments, and that songs that are available in Spatial Audio will now receive up to a 10 percent higher payout rate than other tracks. Listeners don’t necessarily have to listen to the Spatial version of the tracks for the songs to receive greater royalties either, the songs just need to be available in Spatial as well.
“This change is not only meant to reward higher quality content, but also to ensure that artists are being compensated for the time and investment they put into mixing in Spatial,” the announcement said.
Spatial Audio, created through tech from Dolby Atmos, has been on Apple Music since 2021. At launch, Apple had billed the new audio experience a revolution in music listening and a similar sort of leap that happened when stereo replaced mono as the standard format. At its best, it’s a highly impressive experience akin to surround sound. In other cases, some critics and listeners have said the differences can be less noticeable or underwhelming.
It’s unclear how many songs and artists will see increased royalties from the new policy. Apple didn’t give a specific figure in its announcement for how many songs are available in Spatial Audio on the platform, but said that the number has grown 5,000 percent since launch. The company also said that about 80 percent of the tracks that made it to Apple Music’s Daily Top 100 last year were released in Spatial Audio. While it’s becoming increasingly common for new releases to be Spatial Audio-compatible, there’s still plenty of classic catalog albums released before Spatial launched in 2021 that are yet to be mastered for the format.
It also isn’t immediately clear why Apple is bolstering Spatial royalties at all. A Bloomberg report in December suggested increasing the amount of music with spatial audio could encourage consumers to buy more Apple hardware. Spatial itself is also a differentiating factor from some rival streaming platforms such as Spotify.
High-end audio has been a significant marketing point for the past several years for Apple, which also launched higher quality lossless audio for free to all Apple Music subscribers. While Amazon Music launched free lossless audio soon after Apple’s announcement, Spotify has yet to give a similar offering (though the company has floated the idea of hi-fi audio).
Apple Music has been bullish in pushing Spatial Audio since its launch over two years ago. Apple has equipped several of its headphones with Spatial Audio capabilities and the streaming platform prominently shares new new spatial audio releases near the top of Apple Music’s browse page.