Apple bows to Taylor Swift over artists’ pay
A week before the launch of Apple Music, Taylor Swift has managed to convince the technology giant to change its royalties policy. Can streaming save the music industry?
‘Now we got problems.’
Taylor Swift was named the most popular artist of 2014 and for a moment she seemed on the brink of breaking up with Apple, a company which achieved record-breaking profits in the same year. But they are getting back together after Taylor persuaded them to change a major policy.
When the Apple Music streaming service launches on 30 June, customers will be able to sign up to a three-month free trial. But in the original plans, it was the artists who bore this cost.
Several independent record labels had put pressure on Apple about this when Taylor described the decision as ‘shocking’ and ‘disappointing’. She reminded Apple of new, struggling artists who need royalties to get by. ‘We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.’
Within a few hours, an Apple executive tweeted that the company had reversed the decision, and would pay artists during trials. ‘It really solidified that we needed to make a change.’
Arguments about how artists earn their money have been raging ever since illegal music downloads dramatically reduced sales. It is difficult to know how much money is lost this way, but one figure estimates that the UK illegally downloads around £250m worth of music per year.
Streaming services, which earn money through subscription fees or advertising, could be one solution. Spotify now has 60 million users worldwide, with 15 million paying a premium fee. But the system isn’t perfect — only a few months ago, Taylor made headlines again by removing her music from the service. In March, Jay-Z launched a new streaming site called Tidal, with a 75% royalty rate. Apple Music is promising 73%.
But streaming services will point out that their system introduces people to artists without breaking the law. They do pay royalties, and they allow customers to hear an album when they would not have committed to buying it outright; fans will then be encouraged to spend money on gigs; and most importantly, streaming sites can recommend new music that may not be heard otherwise. CD sales may be a thing of the past, but providing easy access to music is a good thing for the industry.
‘Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.‘
Taylor Swift and Jay-Z have both argued passionately for the value of music. ‘People really feel like music is free, but will pay $6 for water,’ Jay-Z pointed out when he launched Tidal. This is unfair when so many artists put their heart and soul into music — as do the producers, bands, songwriters, assistants and managers who help to make it happen. The artists right at the top may not need the extra cash, but those who are starting out deserve the same chances.
- Has the internet been a good or bad thing for the music industry?
- Is it fair that voices like Taylor Swift’s are taken more seriously than others?
- Choose a song by your favourite band or artist and think about the meaning of its lyrics. Draw a storyboard for a music video to accompany the track.
- Class debate: In the videos under our Become an Expert section, both Tidal and Apple Music present themselves as being a defining moment in music history. Is this true?
Some People Say...
“Without music, life would be a mistake.”Friedrich Nietzsche
What do you think?
Q & A
- How much are artists actually paid per song stream?
- It depends on the service. Spotify says it pays between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, depending on various factors. Thanks to its royalty deal of 70%, this money goes to the label, which then pays the artist depending on the terms of their contract. In April, the Guardian calculated this at an average of $0.001128.
- Those are tiny numbers! Can I ever make money from music?
- They are small amounts, but if a song is popular enough, they will add up. Once they make a name for themselves, many of the biggest artists make most of their money from concert tickets. If you want to get into the music business, you’re in for a tough ride — but it can happen. Schemes like BBC Introducing are always on the lookout for new and exciting artists.
- Record-breaking profits
- A huge number of iPhone sales led to profits of £11.8bn in the final three months of 2014. These were the largest ever for a public company.
- Apple Music
- Apple’s iTunes has dominated music downloads for years, but even legal music sales are threatened by streaming. After buying Beats in 2014, Apple will be merging the US-only Beats Music with its new Apple Music service and launching in over 100 countries.
- Independent record labels
- The UK’s indie label Beggars, which represents Alice Bowman and Warpaint, said that they did not yet have a deal with Apple Music, but that they hoped ‘obstacles to agreement can be removed’.
- Royalty payments are due to performing artists, and writers and composers, and are collected by record companies and music publishers, who pay artists and composers according to their contracts.
- Originally run by the Swedish company Asprio, Jay-Z bought the service earlier in 2015 for £35.4m. He relaunched it in March with famous investors including Beyoncé, Coldplay, and Madonna.