The pen is mightier than the sword, or in today’s medium, the Taylor tweet is swifter than Apple’s stream. Or so it would seem.
Taylor Swift–and all artists and songwriters–scored a big win this week after she successfully pressured Apple to pay musicians during a free three-month trial of its upcoming Apple Music streaming service, set to launch June 30. It all started with an open letter on Tumblr to Apple and a tweet on Sunday.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, I am a huge Taylor Swift fan, even though I definitely don’t fit her wildly loyal followers demographic. One of the reasons I greatly admire and respect her is reflected in the actions she’s taken this week that took a bite out of Apple’s intent to launch their trial run without paying one penny to music owners. Here’s just part of what her open letter to Apple, with Love, the world’s most valuable company (by market cap), says:
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.
This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. 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.
The next morning (June 22), Apple SVP Eddy Cue tweeted that they had changed their policy regarding the three-month free trial, so that they would pay royalties to artists, producers and songwriters. Cue told Billboard on Sunday, “When I woke up this morning and saw what Taylor had written, it really solidified that we needed to make a change.” He said he called Swift directly to tell her the news.
There may be a bit of dissonance to this tune, but I think there was probably a lot more communication pinging between the superstar and media giant prior to the one open letter to Apple. Nonetheless, the strategically positive tumblr note did sound a high register on the decibel scale.
Jack Dickey writes in Times.Com:
But this is a story about Taylor Swift, who was already before Sunday the biggest thing going in popular music and is now manifesting herself as something even bigger, a singular commercial powerhouse with the strength and resolve to fight the continued devaluation of recorded music—and to get things done.
According to Ben Sisario of the New York Times:
By Monday — just hours after the company announced its policy change — Apple executives began negotiations in New York with a number of independent labels, including Beggars. By Tuesday afternoon, Apple furnished a new proposal that paid royalties on the free streams, and addressed other concerns like the policing of content uploaded by artists to its new media platform, Connect.
For each song that is streamed free, Apple will pay 0.2 cent for the use of recordings, a rate that music executives said was roughly comparable to the free tiers from services like Spotify. This rate does not include a smaller payment for songwriting rights that goes to music publishers; Apple is still negotiating with many publishers over those terms, several publishing companies confirmed on Wednesday.
According to the music executives, these rates would apply to all labels.
Competitive services like Spotify pay artists a discounted rate when users participate in free or reduced-price trials, paying only half of its typical royalty rate during its three-month promotional offering of 99 cents per month, according to the Wall Street Journal. In December, Spotify paid about 0.68 cents per listen for pay subscribers in the U.S. based on calculating all their subscription fees for the month. Apple hasn’t detailed its exact royalty rate yet, but they have indicated that it will be in line with Spotify’s 35% reduced fee for free vs. subscriptions. Apple is to set aside 71.5% of gross revenue (subscriber based) for royalties, compared with 70% the others pay.
So it remains to be seen just how much money Swift’s post will end up netting for music artists and songwriters. It is crystal clear, however, that Taylor Swift has Apple’s ear. It is encouraging and exciting to see a young woman leveraging her position and powerful fan base to impact overnight policy shifts that can greatly enhance the value of music for all creators.
CCS’s Founder and CVO, Susan Fontaine Godwin is an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 30 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.
About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.