After launching in the the U.S. in late November, we've got word on the first royalties iTunes Match is paying out — $10,000 to TuneCore artists over two months. TuneCore CEO Jeff Price announced the figure Tuesday on the company's blog, and took the opportunity to praise Apple, noting that this was revenue generated "out of thin air for copyright holders." TuneCore is an independent digital distributor that helps artists get their music on to digital retail services. Price's comment is a reference to the fact that much of the music provided by iTunes Match previously didn't generate any additional revenue for artists — either because it was pirated or because it was simply purchased once.
For those who need a refresher, iTunes Match is a $24.99-a-year service that allows users to download or stream tracks from their iTunes library — regardless of the original source of the music — to iTunes or an iOS device. Every time a song is re-downloaded or streamed through iTunes Match, a royalty is paid to the copyright holder.
While Price was certainly excited about this first payout, it's difficult to tell how big an impact, if any, iTunes Match will have on the recording industry. The iTunes Store does command an over 70 percent market share of legal music downloads, we can't yet say whether that will translate into big revenue numbers for iTunes Match. It's also unclear how iTunes Match truly matches up against the mixed bag that streaming services like Spotify, MOG, and Rdio gives to musicians. Those streaming services provide relatively small royalties, but are popular because they don't require users to purchase (or "acquire") music in order to listen. iTunes Match does, but artists theoretically receive royalties on both the initial purchase and subsequent listens. Still, we'll wait to see if Apple reveals how much it's paying out from iTunes Match before declaring it the saviour of the record industry.