Was Taylor Swift & Apple’s Exchange The Best PR Stunt Ever?

Was Taylor Swift & Apple's Exchange The Best PR Stunt Ever?

We must admit, Apple’s response to Taylor’s open letter was awfully swift.

There’s a reason why Taylor Swift is one of the most powerful musicians of our generation. Aside from her girlish good looks, mad song writing talents and wholesome image that carried her from country to pop star, she’s business savvy. When “1989” debuted, Swift very publicly barred it from landing on Spotify because she felt there’s an “inherent value placed on art,” and Spotify wasn’t ponying up. She said last year:

On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.”

Cut to nearly a year later, Apple announces the launch of their streaming service Apple Music set to launch June 30th, and another letter from Swift emerges. Swift declares once again her music won’t appear on their streaming model because she feels Apple should pay artists during subscribers’ three month trial. “I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months,” she wrote. “I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.” Swift ended her open letter on Tumblr, “I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.”

Looks like Apple got it right, and in record time! Just 17-hours later, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services who oversees the company’s music operations answered Swift’s prayers. He confirmed in a series of Tweets Apple will change its pay-out model to back indie artists. Swift comes out looking influential and Apple are our new best friends.

A sweet and amicable exchange between artist and publisher? Or a carefully planned PR stunt to highlight how totally awesome everyone involved is and relay the message: ‘Hey, we’re the good guys and are completely unlike Spotify and TIDAL.’

“When I woke up and read Taylor’s note, it solidified quickly that we needed a change,” Cue told Rolling Stone last week. “Music is a big part of our DNA and we always strive to make sure artists are paid for their work.”

Pandora co-creator Tom Conrad isn’t convinced Swift and Apple’s correspondence was organic. He pushed the conspiracy agenda in an eight-part Tweeting spree, claiming Apple and Taylor Swift pulled a fast one on us. He’s calling bullshit:

Spotify, YouTube, Pandora and others all pay artists for their free tiers and trials. It’s the right thing to do. Swift took her new album off Spotify not because she’s not paid, but because she feels their free service ‘devalues music.’ Swift never pulled from YouTube which is the most popular free service and certainly devalues music if Spotify does. Swift’s career was built on terrestrial radio play, which is a free service AND doesn’t pay recording artists a dime. Apple isn’t getting rid of its long free trial, but is now going to pay artists. This simply puts it at parity with all other players. Apple uses music to make billions off hardware. Artists see nothing from this. Swift’s letter and Apple’s response is mostly theater. Nothing here to suggest Apple treats artists more fairly than anyone else.”

Was Taylor Swift & Apple's Exchange The Best PR Stunt Ever?

Swift’s letter also met opposition elsewhere – a UK photographer shared his copyright contract he’s forced to abide by if shooting Swift. Signing the doc means Swift’s people have the right to confiscate and destroy a photographer’s camera if deemed necessary. A rep for Swift denied the claim photographers lose the rights to their photo, “This agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer. Every artist has the right to, and should, protect the use of their name and likeness.” However, photogs must acquire approval from Swift before selling licensing their images. See the irony?

Now you might be thinking: ‘So what Taylor Swift and Apple set this up?’ But it matters. If Apple Music wants success and commercialize streaming through innovation, it needs transparency. It needs to present music with integrity and honesty to trump industry giant Spotify. Apple changed their business model in record time last Sunday to appease Swift and aspiring indie artists, and while we appreciate the sentiment, manipulating setups through social media and music juggernauts like Taylor Swift, for a lack of a better term, is icky.

Does it matter if Taylor Swift and Apple were in cahoots? Leave a comment in Exhale.