Apple Music has created a $50 million advance fund to help independent labels and distributors weather the downturn due to coronavirus, industry sources tell Billboard.
The funds will be available through a one-time advanced payment on future royalties for labels and distributors that earn over $10,000 in quarterly revenue from Apple Music. Labels and distributors must have a direct distribution deal with Apple Music and thus cannot be distributed by major labels. Music Business Worldwide first reported the details of the fund.
“Over the past week, I have had a number of conversations with Apple, who are aware of the challenges currently facing independents, about different ways they can support the community,” Jeremy Sirota, the CEO of Merlin, the indie rights organization, tells Billboard. “Coming out of those conversations, we greatly welcome the news that Apple has made a $50 million advance fund available for independent labels and distributors,” Sirota says. “The advance is optional, which gives our members and other independents the flexibility to decide if they want to draw on it.”
Merlin says its members control over 15% of the global recorded music market. “We anticipate a healthy participation from independents seeking additional support options for their artists, employees and businesses during these trying times,” Sirota says.
The move will help independent labels who have been struggling with cash flow in the wake of the touring industry shutting down, clubs being closed and the TV and film business coming nearly to a complete standstill. Although not directly related to record sales, those aspects can contribute revenue to independent labels through 360 deals with artists and licensing revenue.
Overall, Apple has been at the forefront of the corporate response to the coronavirus outbreak, sourcing and donating over 20 million masks to healthcare workers in the U.S., as well as manufacturing 1 million face shields a week. The company has also launched a COVID-19 screening app for the U.S., and has donated $15 million to relief efforts around the disease. But this is the tech giant’s first response specifically supporting the music industry.