Vox Pop: Taylor Swift's backlash against Apple and the future of music streaming
A trending issue over the weekend was Taylor Swift’s retaliation letter biting into Apple Music’s new streaming app not offering enough royalties for artists. Apple have, funnily enough, retracted this after Swift's letter, published across social media channels, denounced the move. The Drum Network has asked it's members what they think about Swifty’s tactics and if they think this kind of move has the ability to change the future of streaming as we know it. A massive PR stunt or groundbreaking moves towards fairer remuneration for music artists?
Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director, The Agency
I think it's pretty simple. Marketing the service as a loss leader is a common tactic, but leveraging the loss to music assets Apple don't own is pretty shrewd and underhand, assuming musicians hadn't been counselled and agreed to the terms ahead of the announcement. Unfortunately Apple has started to slip on a number of fronts, and this is unsurprising given their mammoth scale and director delegation. My question, was this an oversight or simply and insight into Apples fast developing aggressive sales culture and margin call. The lesson to anyone supplying and buying from Apple must surely be, keep your eyes peeled and speak up. Publicity remains all powerful and people will back people over a brand.
Sarat Pediledra, Managing Director, Hedgehog Lab
While Taylor Swift was right to be vocal about the lack of substantial revenue for the 3-month free trial, I think the reporting on this is inaccurate when they state artists wouldn't be paid ANYTHING for the trial. As reported in Recode last week at, Apple had planned a slightly higher payout to compensate for the extended trial although it's fair to say it might not have been significant for artists. As both the Recode article & Eddy Cue's comments highlight, this was already a point of negotiation between Apple & music labels. The incredible support Swift's open letter received just helped push Apple to go ahead with this change sooner rather than later.
Kathryn Buckley, Search Account Manager, Periscopix
Taylor Swift’s activism is one of the reasons I love her. I’m not yet borderline obsessive, but I appreciate her engagement with her fans, speaking her mind in public, and the many hours of pop joy.
It’s fantastic that she’s becoming a voice for smaller artists. I’m glad that Apple have reversed their decision not to pay royalties during the trial period of their service. However, the Taylor activism machine is selective; her music is still available on YouTube and Google Play. She hasn’t announced whether she will allow Apple to stream her music. Regardless, Apple have merely brought their policies into line. Apple will take 28.5% of revenue, a teensy percentage drop from the 30% taken by Spotify and the like. Whilst this might represent a revenue drop, it’s unlikely to make a huge difference to a struggling indie artist.
It’s similarly unlikely that Taylor will be harmed by taking a stand; it’s probably no coincidence that she spoke out a couple of days before the UK leg of her tour begins (which I’m gutted to be missing). Although she’s helped us take a step forward, there’s more to be done if artists aren’t getting the royalties they deserve.
Dominic Love, Creative Director, Strawberry
I think if anything it highlights the power of social media more than the actual subject matter. Apple were clearly trying to pull a fast one and it just took one influential person to start banging the drums. It was only a matter of time before it ‘could’ have escalated. Digital media can make or break a brand these days and the thought of any negative feeling towards Apple forced the U-turn. Whether this opens the debate into are 'all' artists getting a fair deal I’m not convinced.
Garry Hamilton, Business Development Director, Equator
This is not the first time that Taylor Swift has spoken out about how music streaming services treat artists: she has stood up against Spotify in the past. With streaming sales up 32% and physical CD sales down 14%, it’s obvious that this could become a major revenue stream for artists.There is a huge opportunity for whatever music service manages to strike the perfect balance between giving the public what they want (whether that be free with adverts, with a paid for option, or something else) and providing the artists with revenues. As Swift said: she doesn’t expect an iPhone for free, so why should Apple expect her music for free? Of course, Apple itself has issues with music and the public before: remember U2-gate when iTunes automatically downloaded the band’s latest album to everyone’s account without their permission? Apple backed down on that issue, and has now backtracked on the royalty payment issue as well, so it does seem that the artists hold the power. After all, if all artists take their music off the services, there will be no service.
Justin Thorne, Head of Strategy and Performance Marketing, Lab
It is… I nearly quit my job last week when I received $12 for 6000 streams! We were number 3 in London on Reverbnation with Tinderella a few months back (now number 6 for London charts). If Apple get the royalties right, there will be a mass exodus from Spotify.Imagine you were a chart topper and after one million streams, you got $6000! I remember the good old days of PRS - I used to get £50 every time the BBC played a tune on local radio!
Debbie Harvey, Strategic Marketing Director, Kolab Digital
Swifty’s tactic absolutely has the ability to change music streaming as we know it! Aside from the music industry, brands generally have lessons to learn here. Traditional media coverage gave celebs a voice, but everyday consumers now have the ability to get in on the conversation making the case to be heard more powerful than ever before.
Apple have had to take notice, who would want to argue against Swifty in the public domain and detract from Apple brand advocacy amongst artists and fan base. At 25, Taylor is showing extraordinary force, responding on what a lot were thinking but failed to act on. Had Taylor withheld her album in protest, it would have been just the beginning of the revolution, with other artists following suit.
Communication was key and the way that the letter was written clearly stating admiration and respect for Apple, but that this particular call was in question, was well thought out. Apple really needs to work collaboratively with artists, writer and producers moving forward
Phil Rainey, Creative Director, Cuckoo Design
There’s something just too slick about this prompt u-turn from a company such as Apple. It’s got to be a massive PR stunt. Now the world knows when Apple’s streaming service is launched, including the 3 month free trial and Taylor comes out looking like Mother Teresa.
Jim Law, Director, Wild Heather Research
It would be great to think that the multi-millionaire and multi-award winning artist was on the side of small and lesser known writers and performers, fighting for their rights to ensure the received fair compensation for their talents from cruel multi-national corporations. Sadly, I feel this is more to do with the objectives of Taylor Swift and Apple being aligned and taking the opportunity to maximise the publicity value for both.
Despite it being launched, I had not heard about Apple’s new music streaming service until the Social Media storm created by the Taylor Swift open letter…reported in every TV news programme, web site, and newspaper, and echoed constantly on twitter and facebook.
Great campaign guys…well done. I’m sure there will now be a much higher take up of both the new service from Apple and the new album from Taylor Swift.
David Evans, Head of Digital, Chapter
15 years ago, Lars Ulrich took on Napster in a bid to stop illegal downloads, while more recently, Thom Yorke described Spotify as “the last fart of a dying corpse”. As creative practitioners, we can fully relate to Taylor’s (or any other artist’s) desire to be remunerated for her craft. But will her actions change the face of music streaming? It’s doubtful. The music industry has been struggling for years to understand that, when it comes to their product, the power lies with the consumer. They’ve been on the back foot since man was able to download an entire albums worth of music - something they thought would happen when we invented the flying car. And this situation hasn’t really changed since that became possible. Music streaming services are now an integral part of how people consume music. As with everything, there will be one or two winners and a number of services that exist on the fringes, then disappear. The true revenue for the artists exists in things their fans can’t get from their music – experiences and exclusives, and why many are (ultimately) resigning themselves to giving their music away for free.
Ross Taylor, Account Manager, Cult LDN
Taylor Swift has been vocal about her resistance to streaming services, and their impact on the industry. However the power of one artist, or even a group of artists, is not enough to cause seismic change by itself.
The reason Apple backed down was not because of Taylor but because of the public backlash it faced as it launched a new product in a crowded marketplace. Ultimately fans will have the final say: Tidal hasn't been taken up despite the backing of some of the industry's biggest players. Likewise, Taylor's earlier stand against Spotify does not
seemed to have (so far) dented the market leader's success.
The music industry as a whole should always be wary of today's fickle audiences. Ultimately they want unlimited music to stream for a reasonable price (around $10/month) and expect artists to be compensated, but not overpaid.
Ross Seabury, Copywriter, RBH
As a smaller, independent agency, it’s easy to sympathise with the artists that Swift is defending. We’ve invested hundreds of man-hours into pitches with no guarantee of any financial return, which is exactly what artists committing to Apple’s streaming service are risking.
Apple’s backtracking is an incredibly smart move given the considerable intersect in the Venn diagram of Swifties and likely subscribers to Apple Music. And with the on-going disaster that is Tidal, and Swift already pulling her music from Spotify, it seems she’s hung her hat on Apple’s streaming service.
With one ‘swift’ move, Apple has guaranteed its success among users and artists alike. If the music streaming landscape is looking at a sea change, this is it. Apple Music just monopolised the market, and it hasn’t even launched yet.
Simon Alexander, London Advertising
The bigger issue at hand here is the devaluation of the album. Does anyone remember the album name of Rick Astley’s ‘Never going to give you up’; of Gotye’s ‘Somebody that I used to know’; of Tiffany’s ‘I think we are alone now? Streaming diminishes the album into its composite parts and those parts don’t add up to its whole. Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark side of the moon’, The Beatles ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and Radiohead’s ‘OK computer’ are albums that have influenced generations; not one track, but the whole album. They are works of art. Would you stop reading Romeo and Juliet after the prelude?
For this reason, I applaud Taylor Swift. Regardless of her financial success, she understands the value of both creativity and her product; and the value of that product should not be dictated to her by a faceless corporation.
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