The Power of One…Ramble


Yesterday, Taylor Swift, gently, because she does, in general, have mad love for Apple, and is a savvy business woman, posted a letter to Apple, requesting they pay the fees associated with streaming to artists, producers, etc. during the three month period for their new streaming service’s trial period. She had a point about not being paid, hardware sales have always been the priority for Apple. Many tech companies build products and expect they will dazzle us so incredibly, content owners will fall over themselves, no matter what the cost to their own pockets to participate.

Taylor has been calling bullshit on streaming and it’s pay scale for almost a year publicly. Her “1989” album isn’t available to stream. She is in a unique position, and many other artists felt she wasn’t using her to power to stand up for them, but she very clearly did in this letter to Apple, so back off haters, she just shook you off and did you a solid.

With only a week to launch, the heat felt scorching, for a few hours, until Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services (see? I told you this is a engineer-based company, there’s no music indicator in his title), Eddie Cue stepped up, spoke to Taylor and tweeted a policy change on Twitter,  that Apple Music will “pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial.” Girls, hit your Hallelujah.

Through the miracle of the power of one person, one person in the right place with the power for her words to change the actions of a corporation that has more money than the American government (oh hey, Greece, maybe Apple could buy you as a vacation spot.)

To be fair, let’s talk about streaming in general and why this move is important. Consumers are streamlining their music and video libraries. Having moved almost two months ago, I opted to give away my entire CD collection. Now, you might say how big could it have been? I was a professional music programmer for Vh1 and Head of Music Video Programming for Yahoo!, plus a life long passion music fan. It included unreleased mixes music industry A&R staff asked for input. The mere physical weight and space of it did not leave me excited.

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I looked at my computer, a six month old Mac Air Book, which doesn’t have a CD slot. I had sold my car, which felt outdated by having a CD player, despite a connector for smartphone/iPad, etc. Thinking of my economy of space, of not having to worry I was losing any music because of my premium subscription to Spotify, my iTunes and Amazon purchased music camped out in The Cloud, it was one less hassle. A massive collection to let go, it went to the right person, who owns many of the same CDS and is still keen on the physical and has promised to appreciate it and safeguard it, believing I will change my mind.

Streaming makes my life much easier. While I did purchase “1989” – via iTunes, if it had been available for me to listen to in full on a streaming site, I might have done it a lot sooner and not only two weeks ago.

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Let’s compare this to renting a movie through a streaming service. The last rented movie I watched from iTunes was “Mockingjay”, which clocks in at two hours and 3 minutes. I got tired and stopped watching it with under thirty minutes left. Given that a rental has a 48 hour time limit, I tend to agree with what JinSai’s blog post regarding the 90-day trial period being too long, a day or a week should be more than enough to convince me you have offered a great product and I must have it. The 48-hour time limit on rentals, is a huge motivator so that consumers don’t forget to watch it, most watching it upon clicking to rent it.

When I went to watch the remainder of “Mockingjay,” I was met with a very sad flaw of the movie side of streaming services, a lack of upsell. I had missed the 48 hour rental window, by about an hour, if Apple had given me the option to finish watching the movie for another dollar or pound, I would have said yes. But it didn’t. It was a little unclear what the options were aside from sending a fear message “you will lose this download” – was my option to pay the full rental price again? I decided I wasn’t that interested. I loved the books so much, I delayed reading Mockingjay for two weeks so I wouldn’t be done with it. The first movie was terrible, the second movie much better and third, by splitting it into two parts, clearly you made it too long and opted for sleep. But, I digress (this is a ramble people!)

If Apple Music’s trial was a week, that is still longer than Apple would go unpaid, or their employees, so Taylor has a valid point, that we don’t get our iPhones free for three months, (unless we’re on a payment plan with a phone company, which charges us so much in interest we wind up paying several hundred dollars more for something that will be outdated by the time we pay for it in full). As a music programmer, when Coldplay’s X&Y was released, I, like many other music professionals, was invited to the record label’s office, where I could listen to the album, which was loaded onto an iPod, encased in glass. Often major decisions to sign a band are made on one listen. If I had had one listen of “1989” I probably would have bought it right away, but instead it had to prove itself to me.

I am pro-streaming, pro-economy of space, even in the memory of my laptop or smartphone. I am also pro-paying people for their creations and the team that goes behind making it available (it’s more than engineers, the operations staffers are the ones that deal with the digitization, the metadata push, etc., the A&R staff have to turn in all the correct documentation with correct producer/writer credits, etc. and on and on). Applause to Taylor for making a difference for all the hard working people in the music industry, and for Apple for listening and changing their policy so quickly. Use your own power to benefit those around you and you will not only win their respect, you can change the world.

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