What a difference a weekend makes.
We had barely finished hitting the ‘Publish’ button on last week’s article about Apple Music’s inequitable free trial terms, which both indie artist collective Beggars Group and pop star Taylor Swift pushed back on immediately, and Apple has already responded.
In a significant demonstration of artistic influence, the Cupertino company this weekend reversed its initial decision not to pay artists for music streamed during their three-month trial period. In response to Swift’s open letter-style Tumblr post, “To Apple, Love Taylor,” calling for the company to abandon its policy and resume a progressive approach to artist relations, senior executive Eddy Cue, pictured below at the service’s launch, tweeted back to the singer to confirm it Apple would do just that.
Even for the world’s richest brand this is no small decision.
Interest in Apple’s new streaming service is sure to be extensive and the trial period is longer than anything currently available from competing services. That translates to a lot of new users trying out the service and, hopefully, a lot of royalty payments to the artists they choose to listen to. Without subscribers paying for the privilege of listening in those first three months, those payments will come straight out of Apple’s (admittedly deep) pockets.
That said, the decision is a sensible one, both for Apple and for artists.
For Apple, the prospect of having major gaps in its catalogue at launch, such as Taylor Swift’s hot new album 1989 and older titles from the likes of Adele, Radiohead, Jack White, and recent Grammy winner Beck, was simply unacceptable. Coupled with the negative press the company received throughout the last week and its impact on stock prices, stumping up for songs played during the free trial is a case of accepting short-term losses for long-term gains. Besides, of course, being the right thing to do, which is exactly where artists are coming from.
Having the star power of Ms. Swift on side clearly helped to sway the case in favor of compensating artists, which the Beggars Group had been first to call out earlier in the week. Combined, the argument gathered enough attention to prompt widespread media coverage and opinion generally turning against Apple, which will not launch its new service until June 30th. With the potential to turn off fans before they even have a chance to turn it on, the brand’s stewards clearly decided that discretion was, in this case, the better part of valor.
Whether it should require the intervention of superstars to support indie artists is another argument for another day. For now, we can simply enjoy the fact that artists at every level will be compensated for their creations, on the back of which a Silicon Valley company will hopefully build an extremely successful music platform.
It is not often that we can celebrate the seamless, equitable intersection of creativity and technology that this site’s name strives to reflect, so today we applaud Apple, Taylor Swift and Beggars for their drive to make it happen.