My Challenge to Apple Music and Music Lovers

This week's blog post is an open letter and challenge that I recently sent to Apple's CEO, Tim Cook. It was really scary to push the "send" button and email this to him and it also feels very edgy for me to post this blog here on this topic. It is always edgy to write and express publicly what you believe because there is the fear of being judged. With that being said, I am sharing this in hopes to have an open discussion on this topic and am really looking forward to hearing your creative thoughts on how we can rejuvenate the current music industry for the artist.  

Tim, 
I want to share this short message with you along with a challenge for Apple Music- in the hopes that you will continue being a leader in rejuvenating our music industry and the artistic creative process. Thank you in advance for considering my challenge and I look forward hearing your thoughts on making the creative process worthwhile for all artists in the industry. 

Well, it’s official. Music is now officially an almost impossible career for the independent artist. With the announcement and launch of Apple’s new streaming music program this week musicians have been put in yet another awkward position financially. It seems that music just isn’t valued monetarily anymore and outsiders (meaning everyone but the artists) are trying to find ways to continue to exploit the talent for free. Apple Music is just another way to make music next to free for the masses. Of course there are some benefits to this service like having one’s music recognized by more people internationally but the question is- will subscribers to streaming services like Apple Music actually go and buy an artist’s album if they can stream it along with millions of other songs for a next to nothing fee of 9.99 a month, unlimited? 

I have been performing professionally in the music industry for over 20 years and in my time doing this work I have experienced a steady decline in my income streams. When I first started it was possible to recoup a $50,000 investment on the creation of an album and still make a profit beyond that. These days it seems almost impossible to even recoup a couple hundred dollars of investment in the creation of an album. Not only is this a financial concern but an artistic concern when I have come to see that the majority of music that seems to be selling and “recommended” on sites like Apple Music are attempts at art that don’t have the artistic intention to express and inspire the world but more driven to make as much money as possible to be deemed “successful”. 

As artists there is a pressure now to create music that sells to the masses in order to survive and there is a trend that suggests that the music people want to hear is music that all sounds the same. There is not a lot of avenues for artists to take risks and truly do what they are best at- create and channel new original inspiration. I have sat in many Nashville writer rooms in recent years where the intention of the writing session is to churn out a pre-fabricated “hit” song as quick as possible and then record it in the cheapest, most contrived way possible. I myself am the first to admit that I am guilty of buying into this artistic trend and being lured into this unfortunate illusion that has been accepted as “normal” by our culture and the music industry giants. I am very unhappy and disappointed with where our industry is at right now and I feel limited in my ability to create new original music from a place that is vulnerable and truthful. Perhaps it is just me but is there a lack of developing and encouraging timeless, classic acts to emerge these days such as The Beatles, John Lennon, Led Zepplin, Joni Mitchell and Tom Petty?

As I write this I am well aware that I may be coming across “jaded” and “negative”. There is a part of me that is very frustrated about this situation and yet to stay frustrated would only continue to expand the negative. I have given some positive thought to what the current state of the music industry might be encouraging of us all in a positive light. In her book, “Open Your Mind to Prosperity” Catherine Ponder advises tithing is a practice that encourages one to give financially and otherwise to that where one finds spiritual inspiration. She says “think of it as your higher power’s bill for the air you breathe, the sunshine you enjoy and the gravity that holds the solar system together. Think of it as your way of giving back to the universe for an inspiration you received to some good that came into your life”. I would like to move forward with a challenge to Apple Music and all those that are grateful users of this streaming site and any other streaming sites along with all those that are inspired regularly by incredible music and art. My challenge is- will you give an amount of your income back directly to the artists that inspire you regularly in your life with the full on intention of gratitude and giving back for what you have been inspired by? A further challenge to Apple and other streaming sites- will you place a button/link on each artist’s profile that allows music fans to directly give back to the artist through financial contributions in which you don’t take a percentage of it in good faith to honour their creative process? I believe that this approach will not only continue to help restore and rejuvenate the artists in our world but will also allow others to truly respect that which inspires them mindfully.  

Keith Macpherson

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