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Taylor Swift’s public protest against Apple, along with complaints from other artists, took a bite out of the technology company plans and they are changing their pay policy. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet software and services, Eddy Cue, reportedly called the singer personally to announce the company’s decision, which came one day after she posted a public letter to the company telling them to pay artists or do not play them.
The technology giant is debuting its music streaming service on June 30, and offering listeners a free three-month subscription to try it out. Since they were not charging listeners, they did not intend to pay the recording artists, songwriters or others who would normally earn royalties for airplay. That is tantamount to a restaurant serving food for free and not paying for the groceries used to make the food.
So, Swift, who is one of – if not the – hottest recording artists, challenged Apple’s plans on the grounds of fairness. She posted an open letter to Apple on her Tumblr page (which she tweeted to give it maximum visibility) questioning their logic, expressing concern for artists who need the money, and announcing she would not allow them to pay her hot album, 1989, which includes her current Bad Blood single. In her letter, she noted that she was speaking for “every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much.” She also mentioned that Apple could easily afford to pay artists even while offering the service to customers for free (they are one of the richest companies in the world).
Swift’s word took a bite out of Apple’s plans, according to Cue, and they quickly changed direction. He commented yesterday that, “when I woke up this morning and read Taylor’s note, it really solidified that we need to make a change.” Duh. He claims they were watching the issue — and comments from other artists — on social media, but Swift’s arrow hit the Apple solidly.
Cue tweeted, “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.” He later tweeted the news that Apple Music “will pay artists for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.” Swift has indicated that she is elated as well as relieved at the decision.
Swift had nothing to lose in taking on the cause of artists and songwriters. Her wide popularity ensured that Apple could not really stop selling her music or afford to not stream it. Both Swift and Apple (for its rapid response to her) clearly came out well in the public eye for doing the right thing. But then, Apple had a lot more at stake.
Apple’s move into streaming music is on the late side. Spotify already has 60 million subscribers, but only 15 million of whom pay a monthly fee. It offers a free option with advertising too, however, that Swift also objected to and pulled her music from the service.
Much like when Apple created iTunes and introduced its store for purchasing single songs digitally, some artists have been hold out in allowing any music service to stream their work. According to the Wall Street Journal, only three of the top 20 musical acts in lifetime album sales (as ranked by the Recording Industry Association of America) do not stream their music on some service.
Unless the plan changes, Apple intends to differentiate its music streaming service with curated content anchored by DJs offering tasty bites of music with algorithms to make recommendations, whether Taylor Swift or other big names or unknown acts that may appeal. The service will reportedly cost $9.99 per month or $14.99 for a family subscription, after that free three-month trial that started all the hoopla and Bad Blood this week.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Forbes: Taylor Swift: A C-suite role model
USA Today: Swift, entertainment industry, take bite out of tech
Wall Street Journal: Taylor Swift and Apple Work Out Their ‘Bad Blood’