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Bad Blood: Taylor Swift and Apple’s Compensation Controversy

By Tim Low, Vice President of Marketing at PayScaleApple wanted Taylor Swift (and other influential musicians) on board with their new streaming music service, Apple Music. Taylor wanted to get paid.

Apple wanted Taylor Swift (and other influential musicians) on board with their new streaming music service, Apple Music. Taylor wanted to get paid.

The fast-moving chess game/theater between Taylor Swift, the world’s reigning country-turned-pop star (and savvy businesswoman), and Apple, the widely lauded but not infallible maker of covetable consumer devices, had an interesting wrinkle that echoed a theme we’ve been hearing about in myriad ways this year—getting paid and getting paid fairly.

You see, Apple is launching a new streaming music service and they want you to start subscribing. As an enticement, they are offering new subscribers three months free as a trial offer. Many of their streaming competitors offer just one month. So far, so good. Sounds like a differentiated offering that might appeal to some Spotify users. The problem was that they were making artists swallow a deal where even though Apple Music was streaming their songs, they (and their studios) would NOT be paid a royalty during the time of the trial. Many in the music industry kept mum, no doubt afraid to offend the mighty Apple, but Taylor, who has proven unafraid to wield her considerable power for good or principle in the past, said hell no.

In an open and eloquent–this girl writes songs– letter to Apple she shared on Tumblr Saturday night, Taylor laid out the case for paying for things you value. Apple caved. Taylor won. Whether this was all designed in advance as a promotional strategy for Apple Music, we may never know. One thing we do know is that she didn’t just win for herself, she won for a lot of singers, songwriters, producers and musicians who wouldn’t have been heard on their own, and wouldn’t have had the pull that 60 million plus twitter followers gets you in this modern world. A simple message that you should pay for what you value might turn out to be a very powerful thing in this year where pay disparity along with issues of gender, class and public policy is becoming a topic for daily headlines.

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Pay attention to this changing world as you think about what you value in your business and in your life. You might have to make some adjustments.

The Apple logoR and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc.


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5 Comments on "Bad Blood: Taylor Swift and Apple’s Compensation Controversy"

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Interesting that Taylor is such a savvy businesswoman. No support or advice from lawyers, business people, etc. for Taylor? That hardly seems plausible. Not that I agree or disagree with the outcome here, but these situations go on in the real world of business every day with varying outcomes. The story is a bit of a yawn.


It may be a “yawn story” to you but consider the fact that is was not her lawyer’s name or her business people putting their name on that open letter. For that matter, what about all the other big name artists who could have (and should have) said something and did not.

So yes, it is a big deal when someone states the obvious. That you should pay for the things that you value.


It’s nice to see someone consistently stand up for their principles in a public way.

Garry Oker

Wonderful ! Pay for what you value is great artist.


Greta, you seem bitter. The mere fact she stood up for herself and her craft is a story.

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