It might be worth it to start mixing in Dolby Atmos if most of your streams are coming from Apple Music. The music streaming giant will reportedly soon offer royalty incentives to artists and labels who submit mixes in the popular immersive format.
According to Bloomberg, Apple Music will give additional weighting to songs that have Atmos mixes, which will result in a higher royalty. Just how much more is not being reported. Users supposedly don’t even have to listen to the Atmos mix itself in order for the artist to benefit.
So you have to ask yourself, “Why is Apple willing to do this?” Consumers aren’t asking for Atmos music nor talking about it. The only time you hear about it is either in announcements by streamers like Apple Music or engineers and producers who are mixing it. So what’s the deal?
I think there are two reasons.
The first is that Apple Music wants to differentiate itself from Spotify, which doesn’t offer the format, at least not yet.
The second is more important to Apple’s immediate mission, and that’s to help sell more Apple Vision Pro headsets. That product release is said to be coming in February, so it’s important that Apple have a lot of spatial product in the pipeline.
Take notice that the new iPhone 15 is capable of shooting spatial video. There’s no word on how the audio is recorded along with it, but if it’s only stereo it might be a drag on the visual experience.
Movies already utilize Atmos so that’s not a problem, but what about everyone using Vision as a huge virtual desktop for everyday work? Many of us listen to music while working, and immersive music would be a nice addition to the experience.
Of course, the unsaid problems with the Apple Spatial Audio experience not matching what the mixer heard is still an impediment, as a mix that many think isn’t as good as the old stereo mix tends to turn off listeners to the immersive experience. Likewise, there’s the fact that many mixers and home studio owners are taking advantage of the inexpensive built-in Atmos tools on new versions of their workstations to mix on headphones, which again, often provides a less than satisfying experience when compared with the stereo mix that everyone loves.
So don’t get caught up in thinking that Apple is doing creators a solid by this move. It has nothing to do with music or creators, and everything to do with selling hardware.
Just to be clear, I’m a huge Apple fanboy and will probably buy an Apple Vision headset as soon as they’re available, but not for the music.