Apple u-turns on streaming royalties: ’We hear you Taylor Swift’



Well, it’s unfair to put Apple’s change of heart over payouts from the Apple Music free trial purely down to Swift: independent labels played an important role over the last week too.

But Swift’s intervention with her To Apple, Love Taylor Tumblr post yesterday was the tipping point, leading to this morning’s announcement (on Twitter) of the u-turn from Apple’s Eddy Cue.

“Apple will always make sure that artist are paid. #AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period. We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.”

140-character statements not being the best medium for complex licensing formulae, we’ll await further news from Apple’s partners about how the payouts will be calculated during the three-month free trial, which kicks off in 100 countries at the end of this month – BuzzFeed, which talked to Cue this morning, claims the company will be paying “on a per stream basis” during the trial.

The news disrupted our planned lead story this morning, due to have been titled ‘Seriously, what should Apple do next?’ with the suggestion that ‘Plan A is to change policy on free-trial royalties. There doesn’t appear to be a sensible Plan B’.

After watching Spotify take a battering from some artists (Swift included) over the last year, and pitching itself as a white knight for paid rather than free on-demand streaming, Apple seemed to have painted itself into a corner.

“When you go to work, you don’t work for free; nobody works for free. Nobody can say, ‘I want to work for free.’ Nobody says that,” Cue had told Rolling Stone shortly after Apple Music was unveiled.

“Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing,” shot back Swift in her Tumblr post. “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

What now? Swift suggested that the lack of free-trial royalties was why she was withholding her last album 1989 from Apple Music, yet the album isn’t available on any streaming service – could Apple Music be the first to get it now?

And while independent labels will be celebrating the change in policy, with little over a week until the service is due to launch in 100 countries, the race is on for Apple to complete its damage-limitation exercise by striking deals with them.

Written by: Stuart Dredge