Last Sunday Taylor Swift sent an open letter to Apple Music, Apple’s recently announced music streaming service, to call upon them a change in their approach regarding the no-payment policy during the service’s three month free trial-period (which every subscriber will be granted). The company was scrutinized by both indie labels and artists after the no payment policy, which would be a heavy financial blow for smaller labels and beginning artists.
In her open letter, Swift made her appeal by hitting Apple where it hurts:
“I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company”
She did continue on a positive note, and leveled with the company by stating:
“But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation”
That same evening Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior VP, sent out a tweet announcing that Apple Music will be paying artists a yet to be announced amount of money for plays in the free trial period.
Ben Bajarin, veteran Apple watcher and head of research firm Creative Strategies, said he’d never seen Apple make such a quick reversal on a major business issue. He continued that “If there were people on the fence about trying the new service, there are tens of millions that will probably try it now, just to see what it’s about, and that will help Apple achieve its goal faster”
The outrage directed against Apple Music in the last two weeks was of course no surprise, as they’re one of the biggest companies worldwide (with a profit up to $40bn last year). To play devil’s advocate though, the news of Apple’s previous stance of not paying artists for “free plays” wouldn’t have made headlines all over the internet if this was just another new streaming service (in fact, almost every rival of Apple Music, be it Spotify or Deezer, has had a start-up period where they did not pay artists for the plays they received).
The full 180 on their earlier strategy is not only a very smart business decision by Apple, which will grant them goodwill from both the public as well as artists of both small and large stature, but a sign that there is a change underway in the dynamics of the music industry. Where the indestructible music corporations like Universal Music, Sony and Warner Music Group are no longer the sole rulers of the music industry, but now have to share their power with indies, that have gained a much more prominent voice over the last decade – not in the least place because of the social media’s capacity to incite big changes by small players.
Above all, their move has shown that Apple puts their money where their mouth regarding their promise that they care for music, all music, whether it’s from global stars like Taylor Swift or from a struggling singer-songwriter who is ready for the world to hear is debut album.