Good morning, Ms. Swift!
At ShimmerTeen, music fuels our work sessions and workouts. Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, along with all of her classics, fill out our playlists. We’re fans, and so we, like millions of other Swifties were excited, proud, and celebrating when she spoke out against Apple earlier this week and got them to change course on a messed up policy (not paying artists for their music before serving it up for free to users around the world).
But, the glittering girl power of it all wasn’t the only thing to catch our attention. At ShimmerTeen, we’re shoppers who want to support the artists that make our lives better and businesses who deliver products ethically (We weren’t super pumped to see Victoria’s Secret’s blatant knockoff of a favorite swimsuit brand, for instance). And, given Taylor’s a rockstar, we thought we’d take the opportunity to delve into the inner-workings of the industry, so that we can all be more informed shoppers.
Following Apple’s announcement that they would not be offering writers, artists or producers compensation for their music during the three-month trial period of a new streaming service, Apple Music, Taylor Swift took to Tumblr in writing an open letter to Apple expressing her frustration with its new policy.
Taylor voiced her shock with Apple in her letter (signed with love, of course), writing “we don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Apple listened to Taylor and as of Sunday has reversed its decision to use anyone’s music without pay.
However, this time, Taylor is not rallying her humongous fan base to promote girl power or standing up for oneself.
Stars like Taylor are too often necessary in voicing an opinion or concern to a company similar in magnitude of power as Apple. She wants to make it clear that this is not about her. She writes in her letter, “This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.”
Without huge celebrities to advocate for artist rights, not only would the music industry be nonexistent, but also smaller artists and independent labels would have no chance for survival. While it is important for lesser known artists to have the eye of these stars or dominating labels, it is necessary for large-scale companies like Apple or Warner Music Group to support their budding artists, NOT to be focused solely on their own potential gains.
It is so important to recognize that the endless supply of music we all know and love has to start somewhere. Be it the new Beyoncé song or a cool new album you found online, there is a starting place for every song and too often does the consumer take it for granted. Artists make their money by selling their music through places like Amazon and iTunes, selling merchandise, partnering with brands, performing live shows, and through royalties. Unfortunately, the fledgling artists that Taylor is speaking up for don’t have the ability to sell out the arenas she performs in weekly. What Apple was trying to rob from these artists, and what we as patrons have to understand, were the royalties, or form of payment from the licensing of copyrighted songs. So, if you listen to a song a certain number of times on Pandora, the artist is paid annually for the frequency that their song is played. This payment is what Apple was trying to take away. For three whole months. With no explanation.
Taylor has begun a movement in the music industry. In the time that follows, we hope that Apple and other streaming services make decisions that are best for the talented individuals that makes their companies possible. Everyone knows that they can’t do it alone.