Don’t Give Apple Too Much Credit for Bowing to Taylor Swift | WIRED

Posted: June 30, 2015 by Kimberly Weiss in Other Music News
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Eddy Cue unveils Apple Music at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, June 8, 2015. DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

APPLE IS SKILLED at attracting praise. Often, the tech giant deserves that praise. This is not one of those times.

On Sunday, high-ranking Apple exec Eddy Cue tweeted that the company would, in fact, pay royalties to musicians during the three-month free trial period of its new music platform Apple Music. This decision was a reversal of an earlier policy that became the center of controversy this weekend when megastar Taylor Swift wrote a blog post slamming Apple for its plan not to pay artists while Apple Music was in its trial phase. “It is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing,” Swift said, adding that she would be withholding her most recent album, 1989—that of “Shake It Off” fame—from Apple Music.

Apple has always positioned itself as a company that stands by musicians.

So Apple changed its policy. “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple,” Cue wrote on Twitter. Swift responded saying she was “elated and relieved,” and Apple came out looking like the good guy in a crowded industry in which artists and the tech companies that profit from them are often butting heads.

“We never looked at it as not paying them,” Cue told Billboard in an interview today.

“We had originally negotiated these deals based on paying them a higher royalty rate on an ongoing basis to compensate for this brief time,” he said. “But when I woke up this morning and saw what Taylor had written, it really solidified that we needed to make a change.”

And yet, the only change Apple is making is paying artists what they should have been paid all along. If Apple were really so pro-artist, would it have instituted a policy that withheld royalties from artists in the first place? It doesn’t seem surprising that artists would balk at the prospect of not getting paid. But Apple’s roots in the music industry run deep—all the way back to the birth of the iPod. It seems reasonable to believe that Apple thought it could get away with not paying because it didn’t think anyone would be bold enough to speak out against a company that is already such a force in music. And if anyone did protest—props to you, T Swift—the decision would be easy enough to reverse—and might even score Apple Music some good press.

“They only did the right thing because they got caught,” says Jeff Rabhan, an artist manager and chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University.

A Band-Aid on an Open Wound

Apple has always positioned itself as a company that stands by musicians. With iTunes, it saved the industry from the Napster era of pirated music and has helped artists actually sell music even as streaming services threatened to shrink artists’ income. So while Rabhan applauds Apple’s decision to pay artists their fair share, he calls the original plan “a slap in the face” to musicians who have bought into Apple’s promise. “I think Apple felt that they could get away with it because they’re Apple. They felt the artists would just go along with it,” he says.

Had Apple planned to do the right thing all along—that is, paid artists for their music—there wouldn’t have been a story. But its apparent change of heart has garnered big headlines—and more publicity for Apple Music. The company even got a full-throated endorsement from Taylor Swift out of it. That’s worth every penny of the millions of dollars Apple will now pay artists as a result of this change—millions, let’s not forget, that Apple can well afford.

‘It’s the model that doesn’t work.’   – JEFF RABHAN

Meanwhile, smaller rivals like Spotify have been vilified by artists, including Swift, whopulled her music from Spotify late last year, arguing that artists deserved to make more from the platform.

Read the rest of this story here:
Don’t Give Apple Too Much Credit for Bowing to Taylor Swift | WIRED
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