Apple Figures Out Not Paying Musicians Is A PR Nightmare

taylor-swift-vs-appleApple just announced, via Twitter, that it will be paying musicians during the three-month free trial period of its new Music streaming service.

And it looks like musicians have Taylor Swift (right) to thank. 

Apple announced its new Music streaming service at its developers conference, earlier this month, in a surprisingly botched introduction. The company used four different people to introduce their new Music service, yet none offered a concise explanation of what the new service is or why we should care.

To make things worse, musicians reading through the license agreement found that Apple planned to not pay them for music streamed during users’ free trial period:

“For Trial Users, and for Comp Accounts that iTunes provides on a gratis basis, no license or royalty fees, including Fees, will be due…”

gary-numanMultiple musicians and labels took issue with Apple’s plans. Beggars Group – the label behind releases by Adele, Basement Jaxx, Bauhaus, Beck, David Byrne, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Grimes, Gary Numan (right), The Prodigy, Radiohead and The White Stripes – recently announced that the policy was a barrier to reaching an agreement with Apple:

We are naturally very concerned, especially for artists releasing new albums in the next three months, that all streaming on the new service will be unremunerated until the end of September.

Whilst we understand the logic of their proposal and their aim to introduce a subscription-only service, we struggle to see why rights owners and artists should bear this aspect of Apple’s customer acquisition costs.

When Taylor Swift published, earlier today, a thoughtful and reasonable explanation of why she was withholding her music from the service, Apple’s plans became a PR nightmare.

First, Swift concisely explains Apple’s trial period plans, for readers that may not be aware of them:

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.

Then Swift goes on to explain that she’s not taking issue with Apple because she needs the money, but because all musicians should be paid and Apple has the money to pay them:

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.

I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress. We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

Finally, she tells Apple exactly what it needs to do, in a concise and memorable way:

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.

It didn’t take long for Apple to take notice. This evening, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, announced in a string of tweets that the company will be paying musicians during the Apple Music trial period, after all:

While it’s great to see Apple responding to criticism, you still have to wonder how the company could have botched a rare ‘One more thing….’ introduction so badly; how they could be so tone deaf in debuting a new music service; and why they thought that the most valuable company in history would get a pass on not paying musicians.

And this is bigger than Apple.

Music is the intangible essence of culture, and musicians are its messenger.

Treating musicians as if their work has no value – as if it’s just a tool to sell beer or cars or presidents or phones – conveys not just a disrespect for the musicians, but a broader disrespect for culture.

Do anyone really want to be the politician that pisses off Neil Young? Or the company that the Beastie Boys sue? Or the company that Taylor Swift has to shame?

22 thoughts on “Apple Figures Out Not Paying Musicians Is A PR Nightmare

  1. Very pleased at this very public outcome. It is theft. “Your music isn’t worth anything but we are going to develop a business plan building a platform that delivers your worthless music so we can make more money. And we give you as little of those profits as possible, in fact, in this case, nothing.”

  2. What about the “Comp Accounts that iTunes provides on a gratis basis”? Will Apple pay royalties / license fees there as well, or are they the same accounts that the term “Trial Users” cover? Anyone knows?

  3. Good on Taylor Swift.
    Love the “We don’t ask you for free iPhones” line.
    She has said what too many artists / labels were too scared to say to the Apple behemoth.

    1. I saw this as well, but I think it misses the point. Taylor Swift is putting in place a contract with press photographers who might cover the show. Each photographer is able to opt out of the contract. Don’t like the terms? Don’t sign the form, don’t do a news article on the show, and go photograph something else. The contract is written pretty clearly to prevent a photographer from snapping a few images, and then opening up an eBay store for Taylor Swift posters, mugs, and t-shirts. This is getting spun as “Taylor is blocking an artist from making money,” but it’s really about a photographer wanting to make a quick buck off of Taylor Swift.

      People should be able to have some control their images, their music, and over the terms of contracts that they’re involved in. If you don’t like the terms, don’t sign the contract. The issue with the music industry is that there’s an assumption that music is free, and that large corporations should be free to do what they want, and to use the music in any way they like to maximize their profits.

      TS didn’t like the Apple terms, so she walked away (in a very public way). This was a nice thing to do for the smaller artists who might have wanted to walk away, but who don’t have the financial backing and visibility to survive a blacklisting from Apple.

      1. I don´t understand your argument and I think that despite reading the article (and comments which by the way says: “No, we aren’t paid by Taylor. They are demanding FREE use of the photos. They are not hiring us, or paying us, but demanding our work for free.”) it is important to TALK to photographers.
        They are sitting in the same boat as musicians, sometimes even worse because their work is used countless times without any payment. “Streaming” an image on Facebook does not generate a cent, while Taylor being linked on FB via YouTube generates streaming revenue (and we are not discussing the amount here, it´s just “something” vs. “nothing”).
        You can certainly say that what the photographer has brought up does not match 100%, but Taylor Swift could easily make a change and do something for these folks so that they earn decent money from their work – but she does not.
        And we should not forget that photos are extremely important to an artist, because that´s what the public sees a long time before they “hear” anything – so basically, she is pretty much taking advantage of all of this in many aspects.

    2. This guy is basically complaining that he can’t take pictures of Swift, print them on stuff and sell them. It seems he thinks it’s OK to rip off musicians somehow because he’s an artist.

  4. Say and think what you will about Apple, they moved quickly and positively. Not many corporation would have responded similarly. Probably a “win win” for everyone.

    1. I’m not buying that Apple did this to do the right thing.

      Apple music had a botched launch to begin with. Amongst my studio buddies, not one of them was excited to talk about or use it. Having an artist like Taylor Swift publicly denounce the service was how many non-techie people were introduced to it in the first place. That negative publicity was enough for Apple to have to spin the story… making a public announcement that they care about the artists.

      This announcement more than likely did not come from the heart. They didn’t do the right thing for musicians. They did the best thing for Apple under the circumstance.

      1. Of course Apple will always do what is best for them – even if it is a “climb down and spin”. I don’t believe they have altruistic intentions at all. If that is the case, maybe more artist should decline to join their circus.

  5. I have read that Apple had actually conceded a slightly higher royalty share to compensate for the three month free trial – this is what the record companies agreed to. Artists, however, didn’t know this or were not convinced. The three month free trial (as opposed to the usual one-month trials on offer) probably stands more chance of signing up greater numbers of paying customers, ending up with more revenue to producers than would otherwise be the case.

    Nevertheless, it would have been a whole lot easier if Apple either had better spin doctors or had been a little less hard-nosed.

  6. I almost believed this orchestrated act, but it all seems a little too contrived. Taylor Swift and Apple walk away from this smelling of roses, which is a direct hit on Spoitify and others. I don’t think we are as stupid as Swift and Apple make out – is anyone really believing that Apple acts on the whim of a spoilt little girl, does anybody act on such whims, nah.

    And celebrities may not ask for a free iPhone, but they still get given them and appear to hold onto them.

    We really must ensue Taylor Swift gets a fair deal, regardless for the expense to every poor creative alive today – go girl.

    Yet we can all make a real stand on Apple, that involves not using their products or services.

    1. Also, the Trilateral Commission is controlling what you think. Don’t go outside.

      “Taylor Swift and Apple walk away from this smelling of roses,”

      No – Apple comes out of this looking like cheap-ass douche’s that had to get shamed into doing what’s right. This is the same shit that all types of companies do and Apple thought it would be OK if they did it, too. People expect more from Apple.

      1. I ain’t talking conspiracy here!? Even Billy Bragg called her out – when she pulled her tunes from Spotify and left her stuff up on Youtube, regarding a fair deal – makes more sense now. Spotify rightful told her to a have a word with your label regarding pay splits. But once another card is played then her disparity in morals and ethics shows a wider game at play, an obvious marketing deal.

        So then the same thing happens with Apple, and Apple aren’t Spotify – Apple could screw Taylor Swift into next week if they wanted to on this – fine, we will remove Ms. Swift from all iTunes services – but no. The hundred billion dollar corp that is Apple magical relents to her whim. Because Apple are responsive, Apple support the Artist, Apple pay a fair deal. And Swift is a young powerful woman changing the world – this is standard issue PR bullshit. Really, are you that gullible? That is glaring.

    2. Bottom line is that some smart-ass Apple lawyer thought they would get away with slipping this crap into the fine print and no-one would notice. They got busted

  7. Glad to see this outcome. But to be fair to everyone, it’s not really about music. Business people ALWAYS devalue EVERYTHING other than thier own profit.

  8. apple’s behavior is not about ripping off or devaluing anyone. it’s just capitalism: buying low, selling high. the difference is profit. so apple tried. fortunately, some people know the most important word in capitalism: no! so apple did not get away with buying too low.

    but please do not be too enthusiastic: these twitter messages do not mean a lot. they do not mean musicians get fully compensated. apple says musicians ‘are paid’, ie will get something. this can mean anything (btw why not a free iphone?). so let’s see.

    and to get this straight: there is no work for free. doing something for free is called hobby.

  9. I’m as about as big an Apple products fan as there is. They make some terrific devices. But lately, Apple has been starting to act more and more like their nemesis, Microsoft. Some examples of their recent antics:

    1) Deciding to design the iOS and OS-X operating system updates so that legacy versions of Apple hardware products become instantly obsolete.
    2) Turning the iTunes and App Stores into digital Wal-Marts, where you have to wade though promo pages of material you may, or may not be interested in to get to the music, apps or videos you typically seek out.
    3) Not offering lossless music downloads on iTunes, even though they could get a sigificant premium.
    4) Designing recent Macs – Minis, iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros to meet their new policy of “no user servicable parts inside”. That means if you didn’t pony up for the outrageous rates they charge for more memory or a bigger SSD at the time of purchase, your opportunity for future upgrade of the device is nil.
    5) “Encouraging” apps developers to update legacy apps to the latest iOS, while removing or degrading support for older iOS versions.
    6) Trying to convince us that they know what is best for our user experience when they arbitrarily decide to offer devices with just a single I/O port in an expensive, proprietary format.
    7) The “AppleCare” program: “So you want your $2,700 iMac Retina to actually work for 3 years, eh? That’ll be an additional $270, please!”

    Now, here is the wealthiest corporation on the planet wanting musicians to comp their music to them for 90 days so they can compete with Spotify? To paraphrase an old Led Zeppelin song about a man who confronts a cheating lover, “(Apple) Your time is gonna come… Your time is gonna come…”

  10. When a star writes an open letter to anybody/anything, it’s not about them fighting the good fight for the little person. It’s about them *appearing* to fight the good fight and gain more (or just maintain) notoriety for themselves. Sometimes it’s for them even to appear more ‘human’, especially useful for somebody vacantly robotic like Swift. It’s all highly calculated effort and 99% of the time doesn’t really even come from the person themselves – It comes from their team of publicists. And joe public falls for it. Every single time.

Leave a Reply