News — June 22, 2015 at 2:31 pm

One open letter from Taylor Swift just convinced Apple to pay royalties to musicians during free trial of Apple Music

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Is there anything Taylor Swift can’t do? She is the biggest pop star in the world right now, she’s broken YouTube records for most viewed video on YouTube for the release of her ‘Bad Blood’ film clip and now it seems she’s the world’s most effective lobbyist. In a single letter she’s managed to get Apple to change their controversial policy of not paying royalties to artists during the free three month trial service for their new streaming service Apple Music.

 

Apple had originally planned to offer users a three month free trial of its upcoming streaming service, Apple Music that launches on June 30th. It had secured an agreement with the major labels to not pay rights holders royalties during these trials in exchange for a slightly higher per play rate later on but have struggled to convince independent artists and labels of the benefits of providing their intellectual property to the tech giant whilst going a quarter of a year without seeing any money back from them. Pretty understandable really.

 

Despite the protestations of independent record labels who almost universally condemned the agreement and claimed that it could destroy the independent record label industry. Musicians like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Brian Jonestown Massacre front man Anton Newcombe stepped forward, attacking the arrangement that would see no artists, writers or producers seeing any compensation over the three month period. Despite this resistance, Apple was unflinching in their demands of rights holders, refusing to budge. Well, that was until Taylor Swift got involved.

 

 “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 wrote an open letter to Apple Music earlier today, explaining why she would not be offering her latest album 1989 on the streaming service. In the letter she said “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 went on to say that the letter was not so much written about herself, as she has the ability to make a living through touring (and trademarking phrases) but it would be a devastating blow for developing artists. “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.”

 

Concluding the piece she finished with “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.”

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

 

Within a few short hours, Apple had responded, capitulating via senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue. He confirmed that Apple did hear the concerns of Swift and other indie artists, posting the following messages on Twitter.

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There is obviously a lot more to be determined, like what the per stream rate will be for artists and whether it will be at a reduced rate during the trial period but it is an impressive victory when the balance of power in a lot of these negotiations has been firmly in Apple’s corner. Whether the gesture is enough to convince Swift to put her latest album on the service also remains to be seen. In any case, Swift thanked her fans and supporters, happy to fight the good fight for independents and went to bed, happy she was able to make the world a slightly better place than it was when she woke up… And that’s why her fans love her.