The Day Taylor Swift Called the Shots at Apple

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A few weeks back, when Apple announced its upcoming music-streaming service, Apple Music, they also let the world know that for the first three months, the service would be completely free. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. A little tidbit that leaked out later was that during those free months, all artists whose music was streamed on Apple Music would be paid absolutely no money in royalties.

That clearly does not seem fair, so tons of artists began to speak out on social media against Apple’s decision, claiming the company wasn’t giving them fair compensation for their work. On Thursday of last week, things really came crashing down when Buzzfeed reported that Taylor Swift’s 1989, one of the best selling records in the last few years would not be available on Apple Music.

You may recall that late last year, Ms. Swift made headlines (yet again) for pulling her music from Apple’s rival streaming service Spotify, stating that the service does not pay artists fairly for their work. So we already know that Tay is very picky about her streaming services and committed to the fair treatment and payment of musicians.

Last week, Taylor explained herself in a very well-written blog post, reasoning that Apple’s foolish decision is quite unlike the company’s historic support of artists and that “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Go Taylor! Other popular artists like Elvis Costello and the large indie label Beggars Group had called for the same thing, yet it wasn’t until Taylor spoke up that Apple finally paid attention.
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Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, in an unusual move from such a behemoth of a company, tweeted at Taylor Swift, “Apple will always make sure that artist are paid #iTunes #AppleMusic” and ”#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.” While Apple’s original decision was an odd and extremely unpopular one, Cue’s response and the company’s quick reversal is being considered a great move for Apple. The company truly listened to an artist to change their policy and support the musicians who use their services. For the time being we can all rejoice over the fact that 1989 will now possibly be available when Apple Music launches on June 30. In the meantime, Apple has confirmed that artists will be paid royalties (at lower rates than Apple Music’s standard) for the first three months of the service.

However, this solution sets a dangerous precedent. Taylor Swift, while being the most popular musician in America right now, is one artist who is no doubt extremely financially secure. What about the millions of little guys that Taylor stood up for? Will they always need a Taylor Swift to come in and save the day or will Apple actually put their ear to the ground to hear and respond to what the average artist wants. Cue even said that when he woke up and “saw what Taylor had written, it really solidified that we needed a change.”

Another mystery all together is what Apple would do if Taylor Swift asked them to do something less righteous and compassionate? Is Apple Taylor’s puppet?? Ok, let’s not get carried away. Still, in my mind, the big question remains: Would Apple have ever changed their minds if only independent artists (minus Swift) had stood up and asked for compensation? I tend to think not.

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