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Swift justice: Apple to pay pop stars after Taylor's tantrum

Barry Collins
22 Jun 2015
Taylor Swift
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Apple promises to pay artists during Music trial, after pop star pulls her album from the service

Apple has promised to pay artists during the three-month trial of its forthcoming Music service, following a public rebuke from pop star Taylor Swift. The company backed down within hours of Swift posting a blog on Tumblr, in which she labelled Apple's decision not to compensate artists during the trial period as "shocking" and "disappointing". 

Apple Music was unveiled at this month's WWDC, offering an all-in-one downloads and streaming service. The company said every Apple device owner will get a three-month free trial of Music before subscriptions kick in, but said that it would not be paying royalties to musicians during that trial. The company dangled the carrot of higher royalty rates than its streaming rivals when the trial expired. 

That seemingly didn't impress Ms Swift, who last year pulled her albums from Spotify in protest at the company giving away music for free. "I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free three-month trial to anyone who signs up for the service," she wrote on Tumblr. "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."

Swift added her decision to withdraw her latest album, 1989, from Apple Music wasn't the complaint of a "spoiled, petulant child", but a stand for the smaller artists, claiming that her protest "echoed [the] 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".

"Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing," Swift added. 

Within hours, Apple vice president Eddy Cue had responded on Twitter. "We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple," the Apple executive wrote, adding that: "#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period". It's still not clear whether Apple will be offering full royalty payments during the trial, however, and Swift reportedly remains undecided on whether to reinstate her album.

Sceptics might wonder whether Swift's sycophantic blog (in which she describes Apple as an "incredible company"  and one of her "best partners") and Apple's rapid climbdown has all the hallmarks of an orchestrated media stunt. If not, a 25-year-old pop star just became one of the world's most effective trade unionists.   

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