Holy crap. I had expected Apple at some point to reverse course and start paying artists during the company’s three-month trial period for Apple Music, but not this quickly and not in response to a Taylor Swift Tumblr post. To recap: Just hours after Swift published a scathing criticism of Apple’s decision to offer users a three-month free trial period for Apple Music without compensating artists during that time, Apple’s Eddy Cue took to Twitter to announce that Apple will reverse course and pay royalties for songs that customers stream during their trial period. Holy crap.
BACKGROUND: Taylor Swift Actually Made Apple Change its Mind
To be sure, Apple’s decision to cave was inevitable. The image of the most valuable company in the world with a market cap north of $700 billion being unwilling to pay artists for three months’ worth of their music looked really bad for Apple. And for a company that owes a great deal of its success to winning over the hearts and minds of consumers, such negative publicity would have been most unwelcome during the launch of its new music streaming service.
We’ve seen Apple own up to mistakes in the past, of course — recall how it handled the iPhone 4’s “death grip” controversy or how it apologized over the Apple Maps launch disaster. But those reversals normally came after days or even weeks of backlash had built up. In this case, one Taylor Swift Tumblr got it to cave in a matter of hours.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what clout looks like. Indie labels have been ripping Apple Music’s three-month trial period for days now but their cries had until Sunday night been met with silence. It was only when Swift used her considerable sway in the music industry that Apple realized something had to change, and fast. In fact, Eddy Cue has told Associated Press reporter Brandon Bailey that Swift’s Tumblr “really solidified that we needed to make a change” with its three-month trial policy.
This whole incident confirms Swift’s place as the most powerful artist in the music industry — not bad for someone who six years ago was best known as the young woman who got humiliated by Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards.