Apple will reward record labels and artists who offer their music in spatial audio, a relatively new audio format that is more immersive than regular stereo. According to a Bloomberg report, artists who release their music in spatial audio will receive “added weighting” starting next year. That, Bloomberg speculates, could mean higher royalties.
Nearly all of Apple’s audio hardware such as AirPods, HomePod, the iPhone and the upcoming Vision Pro headset, support playback in spatial audio, so the company’s move to incentivize artists is almost certainly to ensure that most music available on Apple Music is available in a format that Apple has positioned as a selling point. Notably, Bloomberg notes that Apple Music listeners wouldn’t necessarily have to stream a song in spatial audio for artists to be rewarded. Simply having their music available in the format would be enough.
Apple added spatial audio, which is powered by technology from Dolby Atmos, to Apple Music in 2021. Most of the company’s original shows and movies on Apple TV+ are also offered in the format. Artists also have the option of mixing their older music in the new format, something that bands from all decades are already doing. Mixing music in the format isn’t wildly expensive, according to Bloomberg; if true, this push could help get independent musicians and smaller acts on board.
Some Apple Music competitors like Amazon Music and Tidal also offer spatial audio on their services. But Spotify, Apple’s biggest music stream rival, is a notable exception, even though rumors about a high-quality music format on the service have swirled for years.
Update, January 22, 2024, 5:07 PM ET: Apple started offering 10 precent higher royalties to artists who offer music in spatial audio on Apple Music from January, according to a new report from 9to5Mac.