Apple's tweet to Taylor Swift: 'We hear you'

After Taylor Swift's Tumblr post went viral, Apple repealed a policy that would waive royalty payments for songs streamed through Apple Music during users' three-month trial period.

Eric Jamison/AP/File
Taylor Swift arrives at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 17, 2015, in Las Vegas. Ms. Swift convinced Apple to repeal a policy that would allow the company to stream music royalty-free during users' Apple music free trial period.

Taylor Swift spoke, and Apple listened.

An Apple executive announced Sunday night that the company had reversed the policy that caused the artist to write a widely circulated blog post in critique of the new streaming service Apple Music.

In the post, Ms. Swift criticized Apple for refusing to pay artists for songs streamed during Apple Music’s free trial period, calling the policy “shocking” and “disappointing.” Her complaint was echoed by many indie artists and labels indignant about the loss of royalties.

The announcement on Apple’s part came via Twitter. Apple's Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue wrote, “#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.” Mr. Cue also directly addressed the complainants on Twitter:

On Monday morning, “Taylor Swift” was trending on Twitter with over 187,000 users buzzing about Apple’s response. A third as many Tumblr users reblogged her post, and almost 100,000 people either favorited or retweeted her tweet linking to the blog post.

Using Tumblr and Twitter to draw attention to her dissatisfaction with Apple’s policy may mark a trend in the way the power of social media is being harnessed not only to spread awareness about issues, but to bring about real change. Swift, who is known for interacting with fans on social media, has reportedly been talking about using the platform to encourage conversation about more serious issues.

The BBC reported that Swift told ITV News in an interview that social media could be “a force for good when it comes to talking more openly about topics like sexuality and gender inequality.”

In the case of Apple Music, the viral social media attention may have been the tipping point for the company to reverse its policy. The week before Swift published her Tumblr post, smaller industry players – like independent label company Beggars Group and trade body AIM – issued similar statements in protest against the policy, but received no direct, public response from Apple.

Anton Newcombe, frontman of Brian Jonestown Massacre, wrote a series of Twitter posts days earlier accusing Apple of threatening to pull his band’s music from iTunes if he did not agree to Apple Music’s terms. His tweets only received a handful of responses in the form of favorites or retweets, however, as opposed to the tens of thousands garnered by Swift’s.

Though it was Swift around whom the social media world rallied and to whom Apple responded in just a matter of hours, she claimed to be speaking on behalf of the smaller, less influential artists who were “afraid to speak up.”

“This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success,” she said. “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.”

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