Behold the power of Taylor Swift. Even the most archaic of haters must admit: the perky pop star has accomplished something that’s on par with David’s victory over Goliath. She caused the mighty Apple to change its ways, when even The Beatles couldn’t.
Right now, during the first week of Apple Music, anyone who signs up gets three months for free before subscription fees kick in. The way the deal was originally set up, artists whose music played on the streaming music service were the ones eating that cost.
But thanks to Taylor Swift’s boycott of Apple, the tech giant changed their minds. Now, artists will get paid when Apple Music subscribers enjoy their music during that free trial period on the service.
The Beatles are a famous holdout from streaming music, but nobody seems to care much. After all, Apple Music didn’t change their ways because of The Beatles. They gave up what is potentially millions because of the 25-year old tidal wave known as Taylor Swift. She’s a tidal wave because she came from nowhere and completely changed the music industry forever with a force like no other.
How did this singer-songwriter, who puts out cheeky, catchy tunes for the youth set, come to dominate the mighty Apple when even the Fab Four were unable to pierce its armor?
Some would say it’s all Spotify’s fault. Here’s how it all began…
The big, bold move
November 3rd, 2014 was the pivotal day in this saga, which will determine the fates of streaming music services like Tidal, Rhapsody, and Google Play Music. That was the day Taylor Swift pulled her entire collection of songs from Spotify, where over 10 million users have paid subscriptions (50 million have the free subscription).
The point? Swift claimed that streaming music services encourage single track sales, which discourages album sales (you can’t even buy albums on Spotify!). Not only that, but they pay nothing, too. The head of Swift’s record label claims Spotify has paid out the equivalent of a mere 50,000 albums sold…less, actually (that’s nothing).
Taylor Swift isn’t alone, although as a crossover mega star, her stance makes a more resounding impact than everyone else combined. Country Star Jason Aldean pulled out, and in 2013, a year before Taylor Swift made her bold move, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke pulled out too.
Spotify behaved like a abandoned boyfriend
Swift leaves, Spotify begs her to stay. “We were only trying to protect you from piracy!” they claimed, so please come back. Swift ignored them, and Spotify continued to follow her around like a lost puppy, pleading its case.
Spotify pointed the finger elsewhere to distract attention from themselves
Sounding more like a third grader accused of bad behavior on the playground than a CEO, David Elk pointed the finger at piracy, hoping to switch up the conversation. He essentially hoped the music industry would fall for his “well yes I did that but look at what THEY did…much worse” mentality. True, sites like Pirate Bay, where fans can get ‘1989’ for free, are stealing more money from artists than Spotify. However, half a million is still better than zero.
Half a million dollars is what Spotify was paid Swift (less, actually) for an entire year of domestic streaming of her music on Spotify, according to her record label. Spotify, on the other hand, claimed they were preparing to write her a check for $6,000,000 for the upcoming year. Promises, promises! Swift’s figures are fact, and Spotify’s numbers are future fantasy.
Still, Spotify is a step in the right direction, according to Elk.
“Until we launched Spotify, there were two economic models for streaming services: all free or all paid, never together, and both models had a fatal flaw”David Elk, CEO of Spotify
Spotify didn’t give in ( you still can’t stream Swift on Spotify), but in a sense they didn’t win, either. The hype around these events has been perfectly timed for Spotify competitor Tidal to edge into the market. Tidal is artist-owned and headed by Jay-Z. And of course, it’s perfect timing for Apple Music.
Apple to Spotify: “thanks, losers!”
Taylor Swift’s show of strength in the Spotify saga may have made Apple sit up and take notice of the power of the Almighty Swift. As noted earlier, Apple worked it out with Swift, curtsying to her every step of the way to make her happy.
A few more details: Apple was about to launch Apple Music, an on-demand streaming service. To get people to sign up, Apple proposed to offer new members a three month period where everything is free. That would have meant zero dollars for Swift and company. Right on the heels of her show of strength with Spotify, Swift didn’t leave Apple many bargaining chips.
Sure enough, it took only a day for Swift to prevail. Apple’s Eddy Cue told artists they would be paid during Apple Music’s free 3-month trial period after all. Score another win for Taylor Swift. To make Apple toe the line when the Beatles didn’t: this is why we call her the Almighty Swift. This is why she’s bigger than the Beatles.