Hours after pop superstar Taylor Swift penned an open letter on Tumblr, declaring her latest album would not be made available on Apple Music, the tech giant reversed its decision to not pay royalties to musicians during the streaming service’s free three-month trial period.
In the letter, Swift insists she isn’t asking for royalties for her own benefit. “I am thankful to support myself, my band, crew, and entire managemen,” she wrote.
Instead, she claims she was standing up for the artists who can’t afford to go three months without payment.
“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,” Swift wrote.
This isn’t the first time Swift has voiced her concerns over streaming services. Last July, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Swift wrote that streaming services – as well as piracy and file-sharing – have contributed to the decline of the music industry.
In November, Swift famously pulled her music from Spotify, the most popular commercial music streaming service, arguing its free version devalues music. Doing so, however, did not stop 1989 from becoming last year’s biggest selling album – selling 1.287 million copies in its first week and 4.6 million by the end of the year – and 2014’s only platinum album.
With record sales on the decline and digital downloads being replaced by streams, it seems especially important right now to create a sustainable and profitable business model that supports both the artists and the industry. So, is it really a surprise that it took Taylor Swift to take the stand?
James Barton, commercial director at the Music Managers’ Forum, praised Swift.
“It is a fantastic move. The most significant thing here is the recognition of the power of the artist’s voice,” Barton told the Gaurdian.
“If you look at the history of the modern music industry, the artists get to speak about a lot of things but rarely about the terms of business that affect the works they create. That is an historic wrong that needs correcting.”
Celebrities have come to play a significant role in modern-day culture. Their influence is wide-ranging – product endorsements, for example, enable them to bring attention and credibility to a brand that regular advertising cannot do and brands know this.
According to Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list, 2014’s most powerful celebrities included Oprah Winfrey (#4), Ellen DeGeneres (#5), Jennifer Lawrence (#12) and Miley Cyrus (#17). Taylor Swift made her fifth appearance on the list at #18. Beyonce got the top spot, and just like Swift, Queen B is not one to shy away from similar controversy. In 2013, Beyonce withdrew her self-titled album from all streaming services, but made it available as a Platinum Edition 11 months later.
It seems brands more than care about what celebrities think and for now Apple and Taylor Swift are getting back together, but some still believe Swift’s fight has only just begun. Watch this space.