Is Taylor Swift a hero or hypocrite for taking on Apple?

Is Taylor Swift a hero or hypocrite for taking on Apple?
PHOTO: AFP

As if Taylor Swift needed to give fans more reason to love her.

With social media as her weapon of choice, the queen of the Internet made tech giant Apple say uncle in a matter of hours on Sunday. The outspoken Grammy winner launched a Tumblr rant against upcoming streaming service Apple Music for not paying artists royalties for their music during its three-month trial period.

The 25-year-old US pop star, who refused to allow her chart-topping album 1989 on the platform, acknowledged Apple's instrumental role in boosting her album sales and helping her with her fans.

But Swift took issue with the multi-billion dollar company's "shocking (and) disappointing" move to deny artists payment during the trial period for their work.

Swift spoke up, not for herself but for rising acts.

She wrote: "This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. 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."

Overnight, Swift forced Apple to give in to her request and announce that artists will be paid after all. Apple executive Eddy Cue personally called Swift to break the news and tweeted: "#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer's free trial period.

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

Many fellow musicians, including Christina Perri and fun.'s Jack Antonoff, applauded her bravery in standing up to a top tech powerhouse, but not everyone is giving her a standing ovation.

US photographer Jason Sheldon slammed her for hypocrisy and double standards, and took her to task for a clause in her concert photo waiver forms that allow photographers to use the images only once.

On top of that, Swift and her team have the rights to unlimited use of the photos without paying a cent.

Sheldon wrote in an open letter: "How are you any different (from) Apple? If you don't like being exploited, that's great... make a huge statement about it, and you'll have my support. But how about making sure you're not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?"

Former chief technology officer and co-creator of music streaming site Pandora Tom Conrad is also not sold on Swift's heroic activist act.

Calling the battle "mostly theatre", he tweeted: "We shouldn't herald this move as progress. It's status quo."

He argued that Apple's new decision simply places it on par with other music streaming sites like Spotify and Pandora who pay artists when users listen to their music during trial periods or on free tiers.

Is it worth nothing that not too long ago, Swift battled Spotify and pulled all her albums off the service?

Of course, her Scottish DJ-producer boyfriend Calvin Harris, ironically Spotify's most-streamed EDM artist last year, thinks she is a star, tweeting: "I just played a gig inside a giant owl and my girl just changed the entire music industry what a day".

The fact that Swift successfully and single-handedly took on Apple, made her voice heard loud and clear and earned glowing publicity for herself means her win is indisputable.

As a sweetener, Swift clinched the victory - despite no mention of letting 1989 be streamed on Apple Music - with no, shall we say, Bad Blood between them.

It's Taylor Swift 1 Apple 0, no matter what naysayers say.

Here are other instances in which she took down her opponents fair and square.

SPOTIFY

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

In one of her most famous music activism moves, Swift yanked her music from streaming site Spotify last year shortly after the release of her album 1989.

It was a move to boost physical album sales and it worked - she sold nearly 1.7 million units in the first two weeks.

In July, she wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal and stated her stand against making music free: "Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically... Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It's my opinion that music should not be free."

The company's CEO Daniel Ek addressed her move in a blog post, claiming that she was expected to receive US$6 million (S$8m) in payouts a year.

Her music label Big Machine Records told Time magazine that she had been paid less than US$500,000 by Spotify last year for domestic streaming of her songs.

OK! MAGAZINE

The UK tabloid incurred Swift's wrath with a misleading tweet that read "US star @taylorswift13 makes 'pregnancy announcement'" and also made demeaning references to her as "Harry Styles' ex-girlfriend" and "Calvin Harris' rumoured girlfriend".

The tweet was a reference to an article about Swift helping a couple with their baby announcement during a meet-and-greet session. She hit back, tweeting: "This misleading headline and your choice of words in labelling me are why we need feminism in 2015."

OK!'s tweet has since been removed.

ONLINE BULLIES

Swift wastes no time in sticking up for fans against meanies.

Miss Lucy Ashton had posted on Tumblr a happy reaction video of her receiving a special Christmas package of personalised gifts from Swift last year.

A bully commented: "Ur ugly to be completely honest..."

Swift's harsh reply?

"NO, ANONYMOUS. NO."

She then called Miss Ashton the "cutest human ever born".

ashikinr@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 24, 2015.
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