Apple makes Swift U-turn on royalties

EXTRAORDINARY CLOUT: The reversal by Apple over its earlier plan not to pay for streams during customers' free Apple Music trial shows the influence of Swift, who had vowed a partial boycott of the new service.


    Jun 23, 2015

    Apple makes Swift U-turn on royalties


    TECH giant Apple on Sunday bowed to pressure from pop superstar Taylor Swift and raised payments to artists for its forthcoming music-streaming service.

    The about-face by one of the world's most powerful companies showed the extraordinary influence of the 25-year-old Swift, who had vowed a partial boycott of the new Apple Music service.

    Swift, saying that she was speaking up for artists afraid of upsetting Apple, had called the company's behaviour "shocking" over its earlier plan not to pay for streams during customers' initial three-month free trial.

    Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice-president of Internet software and services, said late on Sunday that the company had shifted course and would compensate for streams in all stages.

    Apple music "will pay artist(s) for streaming, even during (customers') free trial period", he wrote on Twitter.

    Mimicking Swift's earlier protest, Mr Cue wrote: "We love you (Taylor) and indie artists. Love, Apple." He separately told industry journal Billboard that he telephoned Swift, who is in Amsterdam on her tour, after receiving approval from Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

    He insisted that Apple never intended to avoid compensation and had heard plenty of concern from others besides Swift, although he was moved to action after she went public.

    Apple, which revolutionised the music industry through digital downloads with iTunes, will launch its streaming platform on June 30, as customers quickly shift to such on-demand, unlimited Internet catalogues.

    Swift has been an outspoken critic of streaming leader Spotify. Last year, she pulled her entire catalogue as she charged that the Swedish company compensates artists too little.

    Swift said early on Sunday that she would refuse to allow her latest album 1989 - by far the best-selling United States album in the past year - to stream on Apple Music due to the lack of payment during the trial.

    "I find it to be shocking, disappointing and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company," she wrote in a posting on Tumblr.

    "These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. 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," Swift wrote.

    She said that her move was in part "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".

    After Apple's reversal, Swift wrote on Twitter: "I am elated and relieved. Thank you for your words of support today. They listened to us."

    Apple has not gone public with details on the payout structure, but is known to have been involved in intense negotiations with major record labels.

    Prosecutors in New York and the neighbouring state of Connecticut have started an initial probe on whether major labels are colluding with Apple to stop licensing content to rivals.

    Swift, a young country star turned pop sensation, is signed to an independent label, Big Machine Records, allowing her greater leeway in determining her marketing.

    Spotify has been especially controversial with artists as it offers a free tier, even beyond a trial period, for customers who are not bothered by advertisements.

    Spotify says that it nonetheless pays artists back and has given out US$3 billion (S$4 billion) in royalties since the Swedish company's launch in 2008.

    Apple plans to charge US$9.99 a month after the three-month trial.

    Other rivals in streaming include Deezer, Rhapsody, Rdio, Google Play and Tidal, which is spearheaded by rap mogul Jay-Z with a professed mission to support artists.