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Taylor Swift’s Apple victory is a case study in the ‘new influence’


Taylor Swift on tour in 2014. Photo by Tom O’Donoghue, via Flickr.

Apple may have billions in the bank, but Taylor Swift has millions of followers online, and the latter won out this weekend in a remarkably short skirmish over music royalties.

iPhone6-3Up-AppleMusic-Features-PR-PRINT-620x390The tech giant last night reversed its position, saying it would pay royalties to artists during the three-month trial period for Apple Music, responding to a widely cited Tumblr post by the pop musician. It all happened in less than 24 hours, accelerated by social media and the size of Swift’s fanbase.

“I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service,” wrote Swift in her original post. “I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

By Sunday night, Apple’s Eddie Cue had responded.

“When I woke up this morning and saw what Taylor had written, it really solidified that we needed to make a change,” Cue told Billboard. “And so that’s why we decided we will now pay artists during the trial period.”

The economics of streaming music have been the subject of dispute between artists and streaming services, with Swift previously taking on Spotify over similar issues. Apple, the early leader in downloadable music and a la cartepurchases through iTunes, is navigating the complex world of subscription music for the first time with the launch of Apple Music.

Subscription music service Rhapsody has been positioning itself on the side of artists on this issue, making moves that drive home the point that “music isn’t free.” However, the Seattle-based company is also a case study in the difficulties of the modern music business, posting a $21 million annual loss in 2014 as it tried to build more market share.

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