Apple’s new streaming-music service hadn’t even launched before it was panned by a number of critics for not paying artists royalties during the free three-month trial period. And one of the most vocal of those critics was pop singer Taylor Swift, who penned an open letter complaining that the arrangement penalized struggling artists.
Less than 24 hours after the letter appeared, Apple executive Eddy Cue announced on Twitter Sunday night that the company had changed its mind, and artists would be paid during the trial period.
It was a fairly stunning reversal for Apple, and one that came without any PR campaigns or orchestrated news releases — just a series of tweets from a senior executive, effectively apologizing for the company’s prior stance:
It wasn’t immediately clear how Apple would ensure that artists were paid during the three-month trial period for its new service, because the company deals — as every other music service does — with record labels and publishers rather than directly with artists. But regardless of the details, many music watchers undoubtedly saw Cue’s announcement as a win for artists. They had believed Apple had gone too far in trying to promote its service without fairly compensating those whose music provides the underpinnings for the product.
Cue told Re/code that he had spoken with Swift about her complaints, and that her letter had helped convince the company that its approach was wrong. He said the decision to change was made after he spoke with Apple CEO Tim Cook about it.
Even before Swift’s letter was posted on Tumblr Sunday morning, independent record labels had complained that Apple’s service took advantage of musicians. More than a few people pointed out that Apple’s $175 billion cash hoard is more than enough to pay some royalties. A number of smaller labels said they planned not to be part of Apple’s launch, including labels that represented artists such as Adele.
It seems clear that despite its size and the clout it wields in the music business, Apple decided it would be better off showing a little humility towards the artists who are going to power its new service, rather than trying to fight a PR war while also trying to launch a new product.