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Taylor Swift is right; Apple needs to pay artists

Photo credit: Billboard 2014

Photo credit: Billboard 2014

Instead of my regularly scheduled post this week, I wanted to use this blog to discuss Apple’s decision to compensate Artists. Apple announced on June 8th that it would be entering the music streaming business. For its launch, Apple originally planned to have a three-month free trial for which it wouldn’t pay artists who would be streamed on the site. Many artists were (rightfully) up in arms including Taylor Swift who publicly posted why streaming without compensation is so damaging to artists. In her post she stated:

“But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

To give perspective, what Swift and others have argued is that any music service that offers a free, ad-supported option (like Spotify) does not have the capacity to fairly compensate artists for recordings. Country singer Rosanne Cash said in September that her songs were streamed 600,000 times over an 18-month period and she received a mere $104.

17 hours after Swift published her plea, Apple announced that it would pay artists royalties even during the trial period.

Not only is this a victory for artists’ rights, it is also providing much needed publicity to an issue that plagues all types of musicians. Streaming without compensation is similar to illegal downloads and recordings because it fundamentally devalues an artists’ work. For anyone who might be rolling your eyes, I challenge you to name another industry that demands you, along with supporting team, perform a job for months for the possibility of getting paid upon completion even though the work product brings joy to thousands of people.

Swift takes times in her post to acknowledge that this post is not about artists like her who have reached the level of success she has:

“This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success.”

Even if artists can “afford” to take a hit by offering their product for free, it is rare that their team and all of the people who depend on them can. Asking an artist to stream for free is essentially asking his/her entire team to work for free. I applaud Taylor Swift for advocating for all artists in the industry and starting a very important (and needed) discussion. If you are interested in reading her entire post, you can read it here.

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