Taylor Swift wanted Apple to pay artists during its three-month Apple Music customer trial period. In an open letter to Apple on Tumblr late yesterday, Swift called Apple’s decision to not pay artists during the three-month trial period “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company”.
She even closed the letter with a gut punch: “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
After less than a day of the letter’s publication, Apple’s media boss Eddy Cue started calling reporters up to tell them the good news: Apple, after a meeting, has changed its position — it will now pay the artists’ label royalties during the three-months trial period.
The news broke on Sunday night. And everyone went into a frenzy.
Just how did a 25-year-old girl get the upper-hand against the world’s richest company?
But here’s the truth: sure, Apple did cave to Swift — but they did so to benefit themselves. As they would, and should.
Look, Apple is no charity. They’re not obligated to pay artists any more than Spotify or Tidal or any of the other music streaming services are paying artists. If they’re going to do so, they would need a very good reason to.
And they seem to have found it: marketing for Apple Music.
Apple launched Music in WWDC this year — a conference that normal people don’t usually watch. Sure, the press covered it, but in all honesty, how many normal people would take the time to read about Apple’s latest offering that isn’t a new iPhone or iPad?
To reach the normals, Apple is already planning a massive marketing campaign for Music. Swift, one could very reasonably argue, is just part of that marketing campaign.
Swift has got a massive social media following: 59.2M Twitter followers, 71+M Facebook followers and more than 5 billion views on YouTube. She posted the open letter on both Twitter and Facebook. It’s very likely, therefore, that at least (a lowball, back-of-the-envelop estimate) that 20 million people saw the letter.
For those 20 million people, here’s the first thing they’re going to think of when they start reading the letter: so Apple came out with this music service thing and my idol, Taylor, doesn’t like it because it doesn’t pay musicians. WTF Apple?
It’s the type of negative association that could potentially kill a product as fragile as the Apple Music. Apple can’t have that. And so an easy (and given how quickly Apple reversed its decision — cheap!) way to earn goodwill among Swift’s fans would be to, obviously, start paying the artists!
There’s also a bonus in store for Apple: since everyone thinks that Apple only changed course to appease Swift’s demands, she’s also implicitly pressured to put her latest album, 1989, on the service. This is important because Swift is special in the music business: she’s probably the only really huge star who isn’t represented by a label. She can do anything she want. So far, Swift has declined to put her latest album on any music streaming services. But now, after all that Apple has done for her, she’s going to be pressured to put her album up on Apple Music, or risk looking somewhat foolish.
After Apple changed its course, Swift doesn’t have a reason/excuse to not put her album up on Apple Music.
1989 was not only the best selling (8.6 million worldwide!) album, but also the first to earn the Platinum label in 2014. It definitely won’t hurt Apple to have the exclusive rights to streaming it on their new service.
As Swift would say, “Everything Has Changed!”