Op-Ed: Taylor Swift On Apple Music, Eddy Cue Caves – By Bob Lefsetz

She's right but she's wrong.

Apple should pay, but Swift acts like she's above the rules, that she isn't involved in music business shenanigans.

In other words, while she's at it why doesn't she tackle breakage, free goods, radio shows, concert accounting…

It's a dirty business and Jimmy Iovine is too stupid to realize he's no longer working at Interscope. In other words, the transparency's killing him. And you don't want to piss off Taylor Swift's fans, believe me, I know.

This is typical music business. You help me and I help you. I'm delivering this great new service that's gonna save music, so you've got to help me out. The same way manufacturers help retailers out with fixtures and advertising.

Only Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

How stupid can it be.

Because the company should be paying. It's got the cash. And what ever money is involved pales in comparison to the bad blood stirred up by extracting this pound of flesh.

I expect movement here. I expect Apple to extend an olive branch.

Because it's pissing off the indies too. And Martin Mills has got a fraction of the power of Taylor Swift, but at least he's on the right side, as opposed to the fat cats in bed with Jimmy Iovine.

First the Watch, now this. Apple's playing a bad tune.

There seems to be a belief that Apple can save the music industry, that it can do no wrong, that with one pass of its wand it can change consumer behavior around the world. And to believe this is to ignore the history of the internet, where people find holes in the dike, however small, and then make them bigger and bigger and… People will sign up for Apple Music in droves, they like free. They like free so much that they'll cancel their subscriptions when payment is necessary, three months down the line. The same way they cancel cable. You think parents are not gonna see that charge every month? You think America's middle class, what's left of it, is awash in cash? The iPod only took off when the price was lowered. But you could never get one for free. Apple's family plan is a good start, but it's competing against YouTube.

Where Taylor Swift's music remains. Because she likes the money from the ads.

But credit Ms. Swift, she's the most powerful person in music in America, and unlike her popular brethren, she's standing up for something. But if it weren't for YouTube and iTunes, she'd be standing up for nothing at all. Apple's streaming service isn't hurting her today, but tomorrow…

It's kind of like that "Twilight Zone" episode "To Serve Man." The three majors are blindly walking in to Apple's camp. Believing the company's intentions are all good, when…

Now the truth is there tends to be one winner online. One entity with 60%+ market share. And that will happen in streaming music. And it just might be Apple Music that wins.

But not necessarily.

It might be a good idea to partner with a less powerful entity.

Then again, that's what the three majors did. They've got a piece of Spotify…

So, the question is… Who's on your side? And the truth is the labels are rarely on the side of the artists. As a matter of fact, usually only when it's in their financial favor. Kobalt revolutionizes publishing payment and you still can't get an accurate royalty statement from a label, if you can get one at all. This will change, but only when Ms. Swift and her ilk point the finger at their bosses.

So, Swift pointed the finger at Spotify and it benefited the Swedish streaming service. Because at that point the masses were still unaware of it.

But everybody knows about Apple Music. Because of streaming history, because of Swift's Spotify kerfuffle, because of the WWDC presentation. And when you piss off Swift's fans…

Well that's just mean.

Update: Eddy Cue Caves

@cue: Apple will always make sure that artist are paid #iTunes #AppleMusic

@cue: #AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer's free trial period

@cue: We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple

I don't know who to credit more, Eddy Cue or Taylor Swift.

Eddy responded immediately, on a Sunday, proving, once again, if you don't show up on Saturday, don't even THINK about showing up on Sunday! Thank you Jeffrey Katzenberg, you too are pivoting, albeit not as fast as Eddy Cue. And that's just the point, admit your mistakes and move on. He who digs in his heels is wrong. So Eddy gets props here.

But the truth is Taylor Swift just demonstrated the power of audience. An indie artist selling out clubs could say the same thing and have no effect. And the way Taylor Swift garnered that audience was through music. Her original tunes, sung straight from the heart, such that she bonded millions of people to her, who believe in her the way they believe in nobody else, take that Apple.

That's the power of music. That's the way it used to be done. That's why we revere the sixties. That's why the Grateful Dead can sell out stadiums fifty years on.

Or to quote the bard of the Hollywood Hills, "we haven't had that spirit here since 1969."

Notice Cue weighed in. It wasn't Jimmy Iovine. Who comes from the silent wall of the music business. Just try to get Doug Morris or Lucian Grainge to go on the record. As for Warner, it's faceless, to its detriment. But instead of standing up for artists, Morris and Grainge stood up for themselves, with their old buddy Jimmy. They have egg on their faces. Cue backed down, can Doug and Lucian? Of course not, they won't even admit guilt! But they started this thing. And isn't it interesting that the world's best records come from Martin Mills and his indie Beggars Group. The majors are a machine that excises art, that don't stand for anything so much as making money. Which is why artists must do it for themselves.

I don't know what went through Taylor Swift's mind. Notice, she didn't weigh in immediately, this indie/nonpayment for three months story has been percolating for a week. But once she digested the issues she said her piece. In other words, you don't have to shoot from the hip. But if you're waiting for every fact to come in, to test the wind to see what public opinion is, if you're more worried about your career than what's right, you're limited.

Come on, this is a bigger hit than anything on "1989." Taylor Swift just took on the biggest company in the world and WON!

So let her effort be a beacon. Let other artists fall into step. And stop being so afraid. There's plenty of money in music, Taylor Swift is making millions on the road, never mind her endorsement deals. And it's the tunes that are greasing the skids. The tour used to be the ad for the album, now it's vice versa. Taylor's album is on a downward trend, it's past its peak, it's not she who's suffering here, but…

Think of the Tidal artists. They could have done it for everybody else, but the truth is they wanted to line their own pockets.

So, kudos to Taylor Swift.

And applause for Apple. Because admitting when you're wrong is nearly as important as being right.

Onward and upward.

P.S. People will forget Apple didn't want to pay, but they'll always remember Taylor Swift standing up to the company. Apple nipped the problem in the bud, the longer you let the negativity fester, the longer the stink holds. But the truth is efforts like Taylor Swift's are career-defining moments of credibility that are trumpeted for eons, they're what cements artists' careers. It's not only hits, it's identity. Records come and go, people remain. If you stand for something, you're the hook that catches the velcro loop, and we're all loops waiting to be caught.

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