You’ve got to hand it to Taylor Swift: she’s undoubtedly the most powerful person in the music industry right now. If an open letter on your web site is enough to make the most powerful company in the world to change course, you’ve earned that title. Apple’s new streaming service, Apple Music, will launch next Tuesday (30). It’ll come with a three-month free trial of the service and will cost $9.99/month for it after that trial ends. However, artist and labels alike were annoyed by Apple stating that they weren’t going to pay artists or labels during the three months that no one was subscribing. Indie labels in particular were upset when Apple laid out the terms that they would not be paying artists. That is until yesterday, when Taylor Swift got involved.
In a well-stated note on her website, Swift said that she would not have 1989, the biggest selling of this 2014 (and likely 2015) streaming because their decision to not pay anyone for the three month trial period was “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.” She stated that she didn’t need to worry about income from streaming, on account of her level of superstar. However, she was sticking up for every artist that isn’t a multi-platinum force to be reckoned with. “We don’t ask you for free iPhones,” her missive stated. “Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Given that Swift famously pulled her music from Spotify to protest the fact that people could hear it for free, and that she has the most successful album of the year, her letter didn’t fall on deaf ears, and less than 24 hours after she posted it, Apple capitulated, with media boss Eddy Cue stating via Twitter that they would be paying artists for the entire three months.
It’s impressive that Swift was able to accomplish that, and not entirely surprising. What is a little disappointing in Apple’s case was that until she got involved, they likely would have gone through with holding back royalty payments. Spotify paid out $1 billion to artists in 2014. It’s more established than Apple in streaming, but assuming they pay out the same as Spotify, that works out to $250 million for a three month period. That’s a lot of money, but when you take into account that as the richest company in the world, Apple is worth $733 billion, that’s a drop in the bucket. It seems that Swift aside, the tech company will continue to have a contentious relationship with the music industry. So whiles a guilty pleasure to many a metalhead, even if you can’t stand Swift’s music, you should tip your hat to her.