How Taylor Swift Beat Apple Music With A Tumblr Post

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It’s an unwritten rule in American society that corporations, especially massive, highly successful tech corporations, get to make the rules. However, today the rules have been turned on their heads, and a corporation has been forced to change course by America’s OTHER untouchable ruling overclass: beautiful celebrities. Yesterday, pop megastar Taylor Swift dropped a Tumblr post in which she very kindly took Apple Music to task for its choice not to pay artists for streams during its 3 month free trial period. The post, one of the only public comments from a high profile artist about the plan, quickly grabbed headlines and late last night Apple took the unprecedented step of reversing its decision.

Celebrities often speak out about causes that matter to them, using their massive public megaphone to make their views heard above the crowd, but rarely have we seen a celebrity statement turn the tide so quickly and dramatically. In her post, Taylor makes some reasonable points about artists being compensated fairly for their work. She wisely frames her argument as one of concern for young emerging artists rather than one of self-interest. Of course, she glosses over the fact that streaming platforms, even when they do compensate artists, are not genuine moneymakers for new artists. Streaming platforms make music from new artists accessible to a global audience and can help them to build a sustainable following. The only artists that generate enough streams to equal significant money are people like Taylor Swift.

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Still, it’s safe to assume that Taylor’s heart is at least nominally in the right place. Her position that artists deserve to be paid is a fair, if somewhat reductive, one to make. It’s a point she’s made before when she pulled her latest album, 1989, from streaming giant Spotify citing inadequate pay. Never mind that pulling the blockbuster album from the world’s most popular music streaming platform created an artificial scarcity that probably drove its record-breaking album sales. Taylor’s real concern is for the little guys, and the public has largely rallied behind her forcing Apple to hastily change it’s mind in order to avoid further public shaming.

On social media, music fans have been largely supportive of Taylor’s post and of the ensuing Apple backpedaling. She’s been hailed as a champion by fans and fellow artists for using her considerable might to effect positive change. It’s interesting that when Jay Z and a host of other artists introduced Tidal, a streaming platform with roughly the same manifesto Swift outlined in her post, it was largely greeted with charges of greed and selfishness. Taylor’s “every girl” personal brand, tied as it is to personal authenticity, shields her from the worst of the criticism. When Jay Z put himself forward as the face of Tidal, his wealth-conscious image worked against him and the platform.

At any rate, it looks like Taylor won’t have to sic her squad of celebrity assassins from the “Bad Blood” video on Apple CEO Tim Cook. Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services took to Twitter with as string of tweets indicating that Apple would make sure artists were compensated for their work on Apple Music and iTunes. Cue even went so far as to link the decision directly to Swift, who responded that she was “elated and relieved.” Let us never again underestimate the power of Taylor Swift’s Tumblr to change the world.