If you are an independent musician, this weekend Taylor Swift became your new best friend. Whether you like her music or not, you should be thanking T-Swift.
Here’s some background info:
This month Apple announced the launch of Apple Music. You can read more about the launch here.
Apple’s streaming service will require a paid subscription (no freemium like Spotify) after a 90-day free trial. About a week after the announcement was made, a contract leaked that stated that Apple Music was not going to compensate rights owners during the three month free trial.
This put the entire industry on edge, and for good reason. Three months with no revenue is never something a business owner wants to hear.
While the music industry was trying to decide what to do with Apple’s decision, Taylor Swift stepped in.
She famously pulled all her music from Spotify last year, stating that she was not okay with people listening to her music for free. And she took the same position with Apple.
Swift announced that her newest album, 1989, would not be available on Apple Music during the free trial period. In her open letter to Apple she said “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
Swift also declared that this was not a selfish move. She says “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.” She goes on to say that she is speaking up for the artists, songwriters, and producers who rely on this income to make ends meet. Swift asked Apple to change their policy, stating that the tech giant has enough money to pay musicians during the free trial, even if the fans aren’t paying.
Luckily for musicians everywhere, Apple listened.
Senior executive for Apple, Eddy Cue, announced over Twitter that Apple heard Taylor and independent musicians, and they will change their policy so that rights holders will be compensated during the free trial.
This is a big victory for musicians and creators everywhere. And we have Taylor Swift to thank for that. She was the catalyst behind changing Apple’s mind.
Why Does This Matter to Independent Musicians?
Something independent musicians lack is organization. That’s the nature of being independent. We don’t report to anyone, there is no standard network we all belong to. This is a great thing because it means that musicians are free to create whatever they want, with no fear of being told what to do by a label or other third party.
But this lack of organization is devastating when it comes to effecting major change in the industry. As individuals, we have no real way to influence government policy, and no power to affect decisions that are made by big businesses.
But today, we found a voice. Taylor Swift has the fan base, the fame, the influence, and the sales record to make Apple take notice. And Taylor seems to genuinely care about the future of the music industry for everyone, not just major artists and labels.
While we can’t expect Taylor to fix everything, she just accomplished a great thing for the music industry as a whole. And independent musicians should be thanking her.
We should also be having conversations about sustainable streaming on a regular basis. People are getting used to the idea of paying a subscription for music, and as we look forward to a sustainable income model for musicians, we can use that to our advantage. Things may not look so great right now. But we are in the beginning of a whole new music industry, and good decisions— like Apple’s decision to pay artists—are helping us move in the right direction.