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Apple offering musicians financial incentives to mix using Dolby Atmos

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Apple wants more music supporting its Spatial Audio features to be produced, with it reportedly offering financial incentives to record labels and artists to use the technology.

Apple Music subscribers will be familiar with Spatial Audio, a feature that allows them to hear positional audio in a track when equipped with suitable personal audio devices, such as AirPods Pro. It now appears that Apple wants more tracks to be produced that use Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos on its service.

According to people with knowledge of the incentives speaking to Bloomberg on Monday, Apple is planning to give more weighting of royalties to streams of songs that are mixed using Dolby Atmos. Tracks mixed with Dolby Atmos are able to be listened to via the Spatial Audio feature.

For artists and record labels, using Dolby Atmos could lead to higher royalty payments than if they used more conventional means. Furthermore, it is believed that artists will benefit from the increased weighting for using Dolby Atmos even if the Spatial Audio benefits aren't actively listened to by users.

The policy apparently won't just apply to new music. There is an expectation that artists and labels will remix older tracks to use Dolby Atmos to enjoy the higher royalties.

Using Dolby Atmos does involve some extra cost, but it is thought by the sources that mixing using it is "broadly affordable," and so it's worthwhile for artists to take advantage of the offer.

To Apple, it stands to benefit in a number of ways, including increased subscriber counts from users wanting to listen to Spatial Audio recordings. With Apple's audio range including AirPods supporting Atmos playback, it could also enjoy an increase in hardware sales.

Apple declined to comment to the report, and it has yet to officially make an announcement about the incentives.

Apple's Spatial Audio support was introduced in 2021. Spatial Audio made with Dolby Atmos gives the effect of listening to music in a simulated 3D audio space, and works with AirPods and speakers in devices like an iPhone, MacBook Pro or HomePod.

When used with personal audio devices like AirPods Pro with head tracking, the tracking element is included as part of the performance, with the music changing depending on how the user moves their head.