David Lowery: Apple Music is ‘The Right Direction’

Athens resident and UGA music business lecturer David Lowery—he of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fame—is an outspoken critic of the revenue-sharing system that has been established in the era of digital media. So, one would expect Lowery to have much to say about Apple Music, the tech giant’s ballyhooed new streaming platform, which it announced yesterday.

As it turns out, Lowery’s forecast ain’t all that bad. In a chat with Vulture, the songwriter expresses optimism about the move toward a paid streaming model (unlike Spotify, which offers a free version, Apple Music will cost all users $9.99 a month): 

There’s obviously a lot still to be learned. But the issue with the other streaming services has been that the payment on the free tiers is really low. Premium-tier payment is something like seven or eight times higher. So if Apple is moving people towards paid streaming, that’s a net benefit for artists. It moves us in the right direction. 

Lowery explains how free services like Spotify and Pandora threaten to “cannibalize” record sales:

With Camper Van Beethoven, the amount of spins that we get from streaming—if free streaming is going to cannibalize any sales, then it’s not helpful to us. Camper Van Beethoven got something like $100 last year from all free streaming services. That’s ten albums sold. It’s not helping us much.

However, it’s not all roses and sunshine, says Lowery, who also doubts Apple Music’s promised focus on human curation will make much of a difference in terms of product quality.

Hopefully what we don’t see happen is what happened with iTunes, where it became the dominant player. It would be great if streaming music resembles something like the streaming-television market, where there’s Amazon Prime, there’s Netflix, there’s Hulu. There’s multiple players. If Apple streaming comes to dominate—look how beholden authors are to Amazon. We don’t want a situation like that for musicians. 

Speaking of Lowery: We’re pleased to announce that Cracker will play the Flagpole Athens Music Awards on Thursday, June 25 at the Morton Theatre. The full lineup for the show, as well as ticket information, will be announced soon.


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