Apple Music to make $50M fund available to indie labels, distributors [u]

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Apple Music is reportedly making available a $50 million advance fund to support independent music labels and artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a bid to offset expected negative impact from COVID-19, Apple is quietly launching a $50 million advance fund to serve independent labels and distributors with content on Apple Music, sources told Music Business Worldwide.

It appears that the fund will go toward one-off advance payments pulled from future Apple Music royalties. Only labels and distributors with a direct distribution deal in place with Apple Music qualify, and those that do must also meet a minimum of $10,000 in quarterly Apple Music earnings. The limitation rules out indie labels distributed through larger labels.

The company is telling labels and distributors that it hopes the money will be used "to help them pay artists and maintain operations" in the face of global lockdowns, the report said.

COVID-19 has hit the music industry particularly hard, as in-person shows and concerts have largely been canceled the world over. A halt to movie and TV show production, as well as a drop in physical sales due to shuttered stores, has also caused revenue to dry up.

Additionally, many labels are mulling postponements of upcoming albums to avoid softened demand — echoing similar rumors regarding Apple's handling of an "iPhone 12" launch this fall.

Apple Music's subscriber base also appears to have grown month-on-month in March, Music Business Worldwide reported. That's despite a dip in demand for audio streaming services due to government stay-at-home orders.

The Cupertino tech giant has made a number of charitable contributions to organizations offering coronavirus relief, including a $10 million donation to the "One World: Together at Home" fundraiser and part of a $12 million donation to America's Food Fund.

Alongside the donations to COVID-19 relief organizations, Apple this week also announced it is designing, producing and distributing face shields to healthcare workers in the U.S. and across the globe.

Update: Apple has confirmed the fund in a statement to Rolling Stone.

"These are difficult times for the music industry globally. Livelihoods are at risk, with multiple sources of income that our industry relies on vanishing overnight. Apple has a deep, decades-long history with music, and we are proud to be in close partnership with the best labels and artists in the world. We want to help," the company said. "Today Apple Music is announcing the creation of a $50 million-plus fund available as advances on future royalties to independent labels, to help them pay artists and maintain operations."

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