[UPDATE: Oh, look. Apple has caved.]
Now, I emphatically agree with Taylor Swift that what Apple is doing with its upcoming new Apple Music service is wrong. If you’re wondering what they’re doing, well, essentially, a company worth 700 billion dollars has decided that during the three month period when Apple Music is ‘free’ to a new user it won’t have to pay royalties on any of the intellectual properties available to that user during that time. Because [expletive deleted] you, it’s Apple and they effectively have a monopoly on the music streaming industry. Anyway, as I said, while I agree with Taylor Swift – and note that I have no interest in using a product that deliberately doesn’t pay royalties to creators – I do have to disagree with her on this:
In a letter posted on her Tumblr page on Sunday called “To Apple, Love Taylor,” Ms. Swift spoke of a situation that has sent shock waves through the music industry: Apple has finally announced a subscription streaming service to compete with Spotify, Rhapsody and Deezer, but says that it will pay no royalties during a three-month period when customers can try it free.
Ms. Swift called the policy “shocking, disappointing and completely unlike this historically progressive company,” and added that she was not just speaking for herself.
Disappointing, yes. Completely unlike progressive thinking? Hardly. Involuntary redistribution of resources for the ‘greater good’ (as defined by a certain sort) is a standard trick in that crowd. Which means that it’s not particularly shocking, either.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking [Expletive deleted] the music industry. Yeah, that’s bad thinking, not least because what Taylor* wrote here:
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. 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. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.
I get as infuriated as anybody else when Hollyweird does stuff that annoys us. But here’s the thing: Apple thinks that it can get away with this because the Left mostly won’t yell about it and the Right likes watching celebrity entertainers get squeezed. Which is unfortunately kind of true, in both cases… but we’re not automatons. We’re the ones with principles. And, yeah, we’re the ones who should be caring about the non-flashy entertainers out there, because goodness knows the music industry certainly wouldn’t.
And at the very least, you should not use Apple Music when it comes out. Every time you use it during its ‘free’ period you are colluding in taking money away from the creator whose product you are using. Because nothing is actually free. It may not always be paid for, but it is not free.
Full disclosure: I do creative work. And I expect to retain the option to be paid for it.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: Now, all y’all know me: I’m just this stay-at-home father and scattershot blogger and suburban political commentator. But if you’re asking yourself right now How can Apple even get away with this? – why, that’s a very interesting question. One that should be asked by a House investigatory committee, with the chairs and the tables and the subpoenas and CSPAN and everything. Shoot, I bet that Taylor Swift would be more than happy to come by Capitol Hill and expound on this issue a bit. Maybe she’d even sign some CD covers… for the daughter, is it? Sure, it’s for the Honorable Gentleman’s daughter. Naturally.
PPS: Just to make it clear: for the three month period after Apple Music comes out, NOBODY gets paid for putting their music on that service. After that, any music streamed by someone doing a ‘free trial’ of the service won’t be generating royalties, either. So if Person A tries it out in July and Person B tries it out in November, Person A’s streaming will generate revenue for Artist C in December but Person B’s will not. What’s freaking out a lot of independent artists is them being informed that they probably shouldn’t put out an album for the third fiscal quarter of this year.
*Who has, mind you, refused to put her latest album 1989 – a good album, by the way: I own it – on the service, a decision which is legitimately inimical to her long-term interests. As is her raising a stink here. You can maybe cut her a little slack. …And if you’re thinking “Yes, but…” then I think that maybe you’re doing this activism thing a bit wrong.