A Victory for Artists Everywhere – Thank You Taylor Swift!

Thank You Taylor Swift! Wow. Words I never once imagined being typed by my own fingers. But, credit where credit is due, Miss Swift went up against Goliath, carefully aimed and swung her sling and, Pow! The monster was vanquished!

If you don’t know what I am talking about here, a little background: about a year ago, Apple acquired Beats Music, the music streaming service and manufacturer of a popular line of fashion-forward headphones. Apple’s move was widely regarded as a play to compete with Spotify, Pandora and the other web-based music streaming services, collectively viewed as a threat to the iTunes software platform and music downloading service.

A year later, and Apple has now re-launched Beats as “Apple – Music” and announced a free, three-month trial membership for all comers. This is a wonderful opportunity to check out what Apple has built on the foundation they bought and paid for (to the tune of $3billion!). Needless to say, the announcement has generated a ton of excitement online and off as Apple attempts to regain the momentum that iTunes has lost over the past few years. As a leader in the digital music space, Apple is a powerful player indeed, with the ability to influence markets, draw huge audiences, and bend suppliers and vendors to their will.

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As a part of their will-bending strategy, Apple also announced a few weeks ago, that during the 90-day free trial period, not only would consumers be able to sample the service for free, but that all of the artists on the platform would also be giving their work for free. What? That’s right; Apple determined that it would not pay any royalties to artists for the plays that their music generated for the first 90-days. It takes a huge dose of chutzpah when a business simply tells its suppliers that, by the way, we’re not going to pay you for your services for some period of time and who better than Apple to muscle their way into market share?

Well, the story didn’t end there and it took a 25-year old musician (albeit one with a social media following 60 million) to get the last word. Last week Miss Swift announced that, in protest of Apple’s move, her latest album would not be made available through the Apple Music platform. In a blog post titled To Apple, Love Taylor she excoriated the corporate giant, shaming them for assuming that artists would accept not being paid for their work, “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” The response to Swift’s missive was enormous,

Apple took a few days to respond, but when they did it was to back down as humbly as they possibly could. In other words, Apple caved. In the face of a revolt by their customer base and the artists whose work they stream, Apple announced last week that they would rescind their decision; Eddy Cue, an Apple executive, tweeted, “#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.” Cue added, “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.” Within hours, Taylor had responded: “I am elated and relieved. Thank you for your words of support today. They listened to us.” She quickly followed up by announcing that her new album 1989 would, after all, be streamed on Apple Music.

While this is not exactly a victory of the little guys, it is certainly one for the little guys; the independent artists, musicians, and writers whose work drives the success of so many online businesses deserve to be compensated for their creativity and Taylor Swift is their new bestie. Thanks, Taylor!

Photo, wikimedia

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