Image credit: James Yarema

Reports suggest that Apple may start paying artists more for tracks that have been mixed for spatial audio but why?

Last month, a report revealed that Apple Music are looking to pay out higher royalty rates on spatial audio content. The news came from a leaked email and was reportedly confirmed by Bloomberg.

Spatial audio is powered by technology like Dolby Atmos and simulates the effect of directional space in sound. It is most utilised in locations like movie theatres where it can produce an immersive effect of placing viewers within a scene.

It also has its uses for music, creating space that can simulate the effect of being in the room with a band. For example, it can place instruments in different directions as if you were in a venue listening to the band lined up before you from different spots.

The leaked email read: “Starting next year, the company plans to give added weighting to streams of songs that are mixed in Dolby Atmos technology”. But why would Apple want to promote the use of spatial audio on their music streaming service?

In the email, they give this reasoning: “To recognise the creative investment and value that high-quality spatial audio brings to both fans and artists, we will be making changes to how royalties are calculated. Plays of content available will receive a higher royalty value.”

However, Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0 has a highly feasible theory, shared originally on Hypebot. Firstly, he supposes that it may be yet another way of differentiating their service from primary competitors Spotify.

His second reasoning is highly convincing. With the upcoming release of Apple Vision Pro headsets, Apple are going to be doing whatever they can to enhance the product. The immersive headsets turn the space around you into a digital playground. It’s highly likely Apple are looking to enhance the effect with spatial audio.

The spatial effect of Apple Vision will be diminished if the headset is playing regular stereo audio into your ears when you’re listening to music. By promoting spatial audio, Apple will be enhancing the music streaming experience when listened to through the Vision Pro and therefore improving its spatial appeal.

It could also simply play a part in the increasing presence of spatial audio. Just this week Google and Samsung showcased their new Atmos-competing spatial audio format IAMF at CES. They promise to improve upon the format with vertical audio expanding Atmos’s horizontal audio effect.