Taylor Swift & Apple

I really like Taylor’s music, and it’s great to see Apple respond quickly to her criticism of their decision not to pay artist for streams made in the three month free trial of Apple Music, their new streaming service. I think she’s absolutely right to be using her position to make the case for this common sense position, and there’s a bit too much defensiveness from some fans of Apple which doesn’t exactly address the issues at play here.

There’s a fundamental problem of market power at play in many industries, where a large player in the supply chain dictate discounts that they don’t pay for themselves, yet they see most of the benefit from the offer.

In the food industry, supermarkets choose to run deep discounts - there’s nothing wrong with that, customers love it so it’s a good way to get people in through the door and for the supermarket, selling more through well designed offers means making more profit overall. Customers, if they think about it at all, tend to apply their common sense and assume that the supermarket pays for these, but that’s usually not the case. A farmer will be told to produce a certain amount of product, at a set price appropriate for the promotion, for a particular date.

Taylor is in the rare position that her albums are important enough that she can stand up to big players in the music industry, and I’m glad she’s done that with Apple this week. Apple’s initial effort was an own goal - they can clearly afford to pay for their own offers - but at least they have made moves to correct it. The detail isn’t really known, I hope it’s nothing less than full payment for all musicians at the same rate they will be paid after the free trial ends.