“Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes. I have a little surprise for you,” tweeted Taylor Swift yesterday, adding the hashtags #1989WorldTourLIVE and #applemusic for good measure.
That was the first announcement of a new concert film from her current tour, which will be released on 20 December exclusively on Apple Music.
Recode talked to an Apple spokesperson for the details: “Access to the concert video will be limited to Apple Music subscribers — that includes both the 6.5 million people (or more) who are paying for the music service, as well as anyone in the free, three-month trial,” it reported.
“Apple also gets the ability to use Swift’s name and likeness in promotions at its stores, where it will have big displays as well as Taylor Swift-branded iTunes gift cards for sales.”
Swift will be interviewed by Zane Lowe on Apple’s Beats 1 radio station today to promote the film. It’s a commercial deal: “Sources say she’s getting paid for it,” reported Recode, adding in a response from label Big Machine that it “participated in the deal and will see money from it”.
It’s a sign of a new option for big stars to make money from concert films: traditionally the obvious strategy would have been a DVD release, or (as in Ed Sheeran’s case recently with ‘X’) bundling a DVD in with a re-released version of the last album.
Key questions: how many of Apple Music’s current 6.5m+ subscribers will want to watch a Taylor Swift concert film – or, perhaps more tellingly, how many Taylor Swift fans will sign up for an Apple Music trial in order to watch it?
That’s a decent coup for Apple: Swift would be second only to Adele as a holiday-season brand evangelist for Christmas 2015. But the deal is also a reminder that for now, long-term exclusives for big albums (as opposed to content around the albums, like the Swift film) are relatively thin on the ground.
The anticipated cheque-book war for major albums has yet to happen, but as we move into 2016, if streaming services are willing to pony up the costs for ancillary content and leave the biggest artists free to continue offering their music on a range of services and formats, those creators will be happily exploring the potential.