June 22, 2015


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“We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Apple Music does not officially launch until June 30th, but the media storm surrounding the new streaming service seems to be at an all-time high thanks to some poignant words from Ms. Taylor Swift and Apple’s resulting action.

This past Monday, Apple confirmed that 71.5% of Apple Music’s U.S. subscription revenue will go to artists, labels, and songwriters, whereas Spotify pays rights holders 70%. This increase, though minimal, sounds like great news for artists and labels alike — but, of course, there’s a catch: Apple reported that it will not be paying royalties to rights holders during the listeners’ three-month free trial.

Though this isn’t much of a problem for major artists and labels who have the ability to support themselves through live shows and other means — this is a hugely important point for the independent label sector. The problem with this giveaway is that, although it could be very effective in accumulating a huge number of music fans for a new global streaming service, Apple is essentially asking the independent sector to pay its customer acquisition costs during this trial period.

In Taylor’s open letter to Apple, she wrote: “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… but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.”

Unsurprisingly, Apple’s move has generated quite a bit of resistance other artists too.

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Bon Iver’s frontman, Justin Vernon has spoken out against the service and some British indie labels who object to Apple’s terms are threatening to withhold music (including Arctic Monkeys and Adele, as well as countless other indie label artists) if royalties are not being paid.

Taylor Swift’s letter was heavily circulated through the media, and, just last night, Apple responded to Swift’s open letter and made changes accordingly. The company reversed its policy and said it would now pay artists during free trials of its new streaming service. Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue announced the change of heart through Twitter, writing: “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.”

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In a recent interview, Cue said ”We had been hearing from artists that this was going to be rough on them, so we are making this change,” but it is clear that it is the “Bad Blood” singer’s letter (and the negative press surrounding it) that really forced Apple to make adjustments to its policy. It’s a big move, but with the launch less than a week away, the announcement strategically keeps Apple’s name in the media and generates some good buzz for the company.

Do you think Apple would have agreed to change its initial plans and pay royalties during the trial period if Taylor Swift had not spoken up?

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