Taylor Swift over the weekend penned a brutal critique of Apple Music, calling the upcoming streaming service’s free three-month trial period both shocking and disappointing.
In an open letter posted to Tumblr, Swift took umbrage with the fact that Apple, during the aforementioned trial period, will not be making any royalty payments to music owners. This has of course rubbed many artists the wrong way as they’ll effectively be giving their music away for free for three months.
Swift, who pulled her music from Spotify this past November, explains why her most recent album, 1989, won’t be making an appearance on Apple Music either.
This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is 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. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.
All in all, Swift praises Apple for being a “progressive” company and for its underlying goal of making paid streaming a viable reality. But with Apple’s deep pockets, Swift believes that Apple should fit the bill and “pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.”
Driving the point home, Swift concludes with the following zinger:
We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.
What’s missing from Swift’s rather reasoned critique is that Apple will be paying music owners about 73% of all subscription revenue, a figure which Apple executive Robert Kondrk told Re/Code is a “few percentage points higher than the industry standard.”
Even if the economic calculus in the long run works out in favor of artists, a free three month trial with no payment is understandably a hard pill to swallow.
Of course, this isn’t the first we’ve heard of music industry veterans lambasting Apple Music’s three month trial. Just last week, UK-based indie labels with big name clients like Adele and Arctic Monkeys were none too thrilled with the setup.
Speaking to this point, Andy Heath, current chairman of the UK Music lobby group, told The Telegraph that Apple’s terms will “literally put people out of business.”
“If you are running a small label on tight margins you literally can’t afford to do this free trial business,” Heath said. “Their plan is clearly to move people over from downloads, which is fine, but it will mean us losing those revenues for three months.”
It’s a valid point of view, but at the same time, it presupposes that all of those Apple Music trial subscribers would otherwise be purchasing the music or paying for it via Spotify.
With Apple Music slated to launch on June 30, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how this all plays out. Especially because Swift notes that her perspective is one that’s echoed by “every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up.”