June 26, 2015

‘Swift’ Reaction by Apple Turned a Sour Note Into a Win for Consumers, Artists, and Online Music

By Kathryn Sullivan

Taylor Swift, who has emerged as a consumer favorite, music industry leader, and passionate advocate for all artists, last Sunday posted an open letter to Apple on her website explaining why she had decided to withhold her mega-popular album, 1989, from the music giant’s new streaming service, Apple Music. In an effort to attract subscribers, Apple had offered the first three months of service free of charge. The problem? Artists wouldn’t receive a dime during this “trial period.”

Swift was quick to point out that her opposition was not based solely on her own interests. In fact, she was taking a stand on behalf of the less-established artists and others who work in the industry, for whom three months without payment on their copyrighted works would have a significant impact. She wrote:  “This is not about me… This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field.”

Later that very night, Apple did something that deserves the kind of applause usually heard at one of Swift’s concerts. At 11:29 PM, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software Eddy Cue tweeted: “#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.”

Apple’s response shows how conflicts between two reasonable parties can be resolved quickly, efficiently, and fairly for all parties involved. By doing what was right and agreeing to compensate artists equitably (trial period or not), Apple garnered goodwill with megastars like Swift as well as less-established artists. Apple’s change of course helped them land two major indie music groups, Beggars Group and Merlin, which represents 20,000 labels and distributors worldwide, widening the net of artists to share their creative works with appreciative consumers.

Swift, for her part, leveraged her celebrity for a common good. By taking a stand, she was able to bring Apple to a place of agreement and ultimately get consumers the content they want through a service that is legal, safe, and of high quality.

Apple’s decision to do the right thing was a win for all parties involved: The consumer has access to more of the content they desire and a quality, safe experience for accessing music—without the risk.  Swift used her megaphone as a public figure to effect positive change for parties large and small within the industry. And Apple showed its commitment to artists—which in turn encouraged others in the industry to sign on to their service.

Photo via Flickr Commons user JABMW14

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