Apple, please don’t make artists and D2C the victims in your battle for dominance

Yesterday, the smart linking service Linkfire sent out a PR update, with a fantastic announcement: it would soon be able to provide conversion metrics for users clicking through to Apple Music.

In plain English, that means that those of us working in marketing would be able to see how many people who clicked on our ads or organic posts then went on to listen to the music in question. This is incredibly valuable insight, as it provides a transparent view of the success of one’s ads if a stream was the objective being sought.

There was however, a caveat. Here’s the original spec as outlined on Linkfire’s site:

Linkfire's original Apple Music stipulation

The message was clear: if Apple Music was not the #1 link on a Linkfire landing page, you would not see conversion metrics.

This prompted a fairly outraged tweet from yours truly, admittedly in language that could perhaps have been more considered:

Something to note is that since my tweet went live, Linkfire’s page has been updated to the following:

Linkfire amended text

 

Really though, the point remains the same: unless you place Apple Music in the #1 spot on your Linkfire landing page, you will not see valuable conversion insights around your marketing.

Up until now, Apple Music has presented itself as a very artist-friendly operation. Initiatives like the Apple Music Marketing one made a great deal of sense, empowering artists with budget that enabled them to reach wider audiences, whilst at the same time, yes, ensuring that Apple Music’s logo was present or that Apple Music was the destination being linked to. It worked well for all involved.

With this latest move however, Apple is placing artists and Direct-To-Consumer retail in the middle of its battle for dominance with Spotify. If artists dare to place a D2C store above Apple Music on Linkfire, they will not see valuable conversion data. The consumer doesn’t lose out here: they will still see the list of links, and if we’re being honest, the order in which they appear is unlikely to have much effect on what people click on. A Spotify user will click on the Spotify link, an Apple Music user on the Apple Music one and so on. The only victims here are the artists and their teams working to get the best possible results for a release.

At present, Spotify has not responded to this by matching Apple Music’s position – i.e. “if we are not #1 on your Linkfire links, we will not provide insight or editorial support”. However it isn’t difficult to imagine that happening – it is almost reasonable, frankly, that they respond to this move with one of their own. But in doing so, artists are once again the pawns in the war and are the only people likely to lose out here.

It is also a fair assumption to suggest that this is not something limited only to Linkfire, too. Websites, social media presences – all artists’ online platforms may be required to have Apple Music listed in the #1 spot to secure not just better insights but better support too. Should Spotify demand the same, everyone is working in a compromised position.

We are fans of Apple Music here at Motive Unknown and we work hard to get the best possible results for our clients. Insights play a massive part in this, and data generally plays a critical role in understanding what is going on across a campaign.

At a fundamental level then, ostensibly holding data insight for ransom in return for preferential placement is wrong, and we would strongly urge Apple to re-think this strategy. Share the conversion data with artists. Open that conversion insight up for all artists to access, whether they are using Linkfire or not. Be the better people in that regard, as it will foster immense goodwill and in turn deliver strong support. Earn that support; please do not force people into it, as that may well undo the very positive view artists have of the platform thanks to your work to date.