Sony Music applauds Apple’s new podcast subscription launch

Spotify, which has been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into podcasting over the past few years, sent out a user survey in November indicating that it was mulling the launch of a standalone podcast subscription service.

Apple just beat Spotify to it. This week, the tech giant unveiled Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, which it describes as “a global marketplace for listeners to discover premium subscriptions offered by their favorite creators alongside millions of free shows on Apple Podcasts”.

Starting in May, premium podcast subscriptions will be available to Apple users in 170 countries.

Apple says these subscriptions will include a “variety of benefits curated by creators, such as ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series”.

Citing a source familiar with Apple’s podcast strategy, Vox/Recode reports that podcast publishers will get to sell their own subscriptions starting at 49 cents (in the US), with Apple taking a 30% cut of earnings for the first year and 15% thereafter.

Vox/Recode adds that podcasters won’t be required to sell their shows as Apple exclusives, but they will need to make it clear which content they’re distributing elsewhere.

Apple’s official release announcing the news includes quotes from executives of various media and entertainment brands hailing the launch of the new service.

Some of those companies include Tenderfoot TV, Pushkin Industries, Radiotopia from PRX, QCODE, NPR, the Los Angeles Times and The Athletic.

Dennis Kooker, President of Global Digital Business and US Sales at Sony Music Entertainment, is amongst them.

Kooker praises the new subscription feature, stating: “Apple is putting creators first with their approach to the subscription model.”

“Apple is putting creators first with their approach to the subscription model.”

Dennis Kooker, Sony Music Entertainment

He adds: “Offering subscriptions provides new flexibility and options for consumers, and is an important addition to helping creators better monetize their works.

“All of this will lead to more investment and even better shows for podcast fans.”

Sony Music is the only major music company quoted in Apple’s subscription announcement.

(It would be remiss of us not to note: this is an announcement which comes just a few days after rival Warner Music Group announced an exclusive podcast development deal with Apple rival Spotify, which will see those two firms jointly develop a series of original podcasts.)

“We’re excited to introduce this powerful new platform to creators around the world, and we can’t wait to hear what they make with it.”

Eddy Cue, Apple

Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, said in Apple’s announcement: “Fifteen years ago, Apple took podcasts mainstream, offering creators a premier, open platform to inform, entertain, and inspire hundreds of millions of listeners around the world.

“Today, Apple Podcasts is the best place for listeners to discover and enjoy millions of great shows, and we are proud to lead the next chapter of podcasting with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions.

“We’re excited to introduce this powerful new platform to creators around the world, and we can’t wait to hear what they make with it.”

Sony Music Entertainment has been heavily investing in podcasts for a while now.

All the way back in May 2019, the major music group formed a JV with podcast makers Adam Davidson and Laura Mayer to develop original programming and find new talent.

Then, in November 2019, McKay’s production company, Hyperobject Industries and Three Uncanny Four Productions (the company formed by Davidson, Mayer and Sony Music) entered into an exclusive multi-year agreement to create, produce and distribute scripted and unscripted podcast programming.

By the end of 2019, Sony Music had also named a dedicated team to spearhead its worldwide podcast strategy and also made a strategic investment in podcast production house Neon Hum, forming a creative partnership to develop original podcast content.

Meanwhile, in the UK, just two months after forming a joint venture with acclaimed UK podcast creator Renay RichardsonSony Music doubled down on its podcast strategy again, naming Adam Cardew, formerly the Digital Director of Sony Music UK’s 4th Floor Creative, as the new Vice President, Podcasting & Creative Strategy.

And at the start of 2020, UK-based independent audio producer Somethin’ Else and Sony Music formed a global content partnership to develop shows.

Sony was even also rumoured last year to have held acquisition talks with Los Angeles-based Podcast publisher Wondery, maker of hit podcasts including Dirty John, Dr. Death, Business Wars, and The Shrink Next Door.

Wondery was sold to Amazon Music in December after all, and interestingly, Universal Music Group signed a partnership in April 2019 with then-independent Wondery to develop premium original podcasts. It’s not clear at this stage what’s happening with that partnership post-Amazon acquisition.Music Business Worldwide