Apple performed a swift about-turn last night over its policy of not paying royalties to musicians during the three-month trial period for its music-streaming service. And the music industry has just one name to thank for the extra dollars that will land in their bank accounts as a result: queen of everything, Taylor Swift.
By persuading notoriously inflexible Apple to change its policy — within a matter of hours of publishing a blog post on Tumblr threatening to withhold her latest album, 1989, from the service — Swift has achieved the seemingly impossible. But in the process she has done something else: revealed, and healed, a widening rift of Bad Blood between musicians and Apple.
“Everyone was up in arms about it, it was really bad,” Jonny Quinn of Snow Patrol and Polar Patrol Publishing tells WIRED.co.uk. “Somebody mentioned to me that was like offering a free three-month gym membership but then not paying the staff.”
If Apple was a startup, people might have understood, he adds, but “nobody has sympathy for a $700 billion company, especially for the indie labels where every penny counts. And they know it as well — they’ve worked with all the labels before and they know exactly how they operate and what sort of profits there are, so its quite shocking to even think about that.”
Quinn says that he was shocked when he first heard about artists not getting paid for the trial. “I thought it was pretty terrible. We [Polar] are a publishing company and we don’t have any releases in that three-month period, but if we did, that would have been a disaster really. I think they did the right thing. I’m just shocked that he even thought about it in the first place.”
Swift speaking out against Apple was a power move by one of the world’s most popular musicians, but it has benefitted every artist in the world as a result. It shows not only the strength of her influence, but reveals how little power other artists feel that they have to speak up when they feel they are being treated unfairly.
According to Quinn, many musicians would fear to publicly lobby Apple in this way. “They may say well we’re not going to put you on our front page, we’re not going to promote you — that’s what the fear is, that you won’t get these opportunities when they arise. I’m not that worried about it personally, but I know that there is definitely fear.”
Would it be possible then to effect such change without Swift, or a Swift-like figure at the top to spearhead it? Quinn believes that it could be, but that it will take massive collaboration and would have helped if those in the music industry had acted earlier.
“The managers and the labels have to get together and traditionally that’s been the problem. They could have set up their own iTunes if all the labels had agreed early on, or agreed just to recognise technology. They are just really late at adopting it, so I think there just needs to be a lot more singularity, especially with lobbying government as well,” he says. “There’s the international manager’s forum, which you get together and fight for a lot of different things but it feels like there should be more of a collective voice.”
Despite this, he now believes Apple has a fighting chance to win fans both in the music industry and among consumers. “I think not that they’ve made this decision everybody will get on board — I don’t think anyone will hold back now,” he says.
“Artists do love Apple — everyone seems to have the laptop [the Macbook] who is in music — and I think everyone’s been fairly happy with iTunes and the way it has been run. I think it’s a good decision to have been made because I think they were in real danger of starting off on the really wrong foot and I think this will definitely get everyone back on board again.”
Quinn calls what Swift has done “amazing”, and speaks of his surprise at the turnaround on Apple’s part. “I could hardly believe my eyes when I read it this morning actually. Normally companies of that size never reverse their decisions.”
He’s not the only one to speak publicly in favour of Apple’s decision. Musicians around the world and from every corner of the industry tweeted their thanks to Swift for taking a stand this morning.
Thank you, @taylorswift13 and Apple! This makes a big difference for me and my family!” said Steven Cravis, a composer of music for television.
“You said what a lot of artists were afraid to say, did what lots were afraid to do, and were big enough to make a difference,” said musician SOHN.
“I’m so proud that the loudest voice in music today is using it to stand up for those who are not heard,” tweeted FUN musician and Swift collaborator, Jack Antonoff.
“These are multibillion companies who should be paying for their own marketing tools. Good for you @taylorswift13,” said British opera singer Paul Potts.
Read the article at wired.co.uk.