On Taylor Swift’s Tumblr page, where she frequently posts sassy snapshots of herself in concert and debates questionable wardrobe choices with fans, the starlet just pulled off an unfathomable coup that has likely made her the most powerful person in today’s music industry.
In a backbendingly gracious letter to the “historically progressive and generous” Apple corporation, Swift explained that she withheld her blockbuster 1989 album from the company’s just-launched streaming service because Apple won’t pay writers, producers or artists during the free, three-month trial period that users get when they sign up.
“These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child,” Swift wrote. “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.”
She concluded with a somewhat incongruous – though sufficiently potent – comparison: “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
The next day, Apple – which has come under fire for fixing prices in the past – suddenly changed its tune. “Apple will always make sure that artist [sic] are paid,” tweeted Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of Internet software and services, late last night. He added that Apple would foot the bill for artists during the free trial period for consumers. “We hear you Taylor Swift and indie artists. Love, Apple.”
As the music industry increasingly shifts towards a streaming model, perhaps no artist has swirled at the center of these changing tides quite like Swift. Not even Jay Z has served as a greater lightning rod – even after the rapper launched his own beleaguered platform, Tidal, last January.
In the process, Swift has become something of an industry activist and oracle. While Tidal has come under fire for wealthy artists bemoaning the industry’s injustices, Swift has cleverly framed her battle as one of underdogs merely seeking their due.
“These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much,” she wrote.
And fellow artists have circled her rallying cry in greater droves than the cameo-teeming Bad Blood music video. Elvis Costello likened Swift’s note to “a word from our future president” – a sentiment that she promptly retweeted. Swift’s boyfriend, Calvin Harris, and frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff also bowed their heads in deference.
As Swift’s popularity and power continue to reach new bounds, the move also marks a potential win for Apple, which is a relatively late arriver to the streaming battle. Ever since Swift first announced that she was staunchly against free streaming and pulled 1989 from Spotify shortly after its release, the industry has been anticipating where the album might land.
However, it still remains to be seen whether Apple’s concession means that Swift will allow 1989 to appear on Apple Music.