By now you should know that Apple announced that its new music streaming service would come with a three-month free trial following the launch. Yay! But during those first three months of free-for-all promotional service, Apple would be withholding royalties from the artists being streamed. Boo! Obviously this pissed off a lot of people, because that’s an inexplicably shrewd move for a company recently touted as the first ever $700 billion enterprise. Yes, that’s way too close to one trillion dollars for a company to be penny-pinching. Imagine your employer withholding your checks for three months and saying you should be grateful because they still make you come to the office every day. And that your employer has the reserves of the United States Mint.
Anyway, like we said: This played very poorly as a PR move. Indie labels that hadn’t signed deals yet with Apple were already upset about terms of the new service they considered unfair, and this withholding of money for three months just made the situation worse. Smaller artists and their representative bodies were upset, but whatever. Apple does what Apple is going to do, because it’s basically a country. But then on Sunday, Taylor Swift flipped the safety cap on her Big Red Button and launched a Tumblr nuke at Cupertino, at which point we all got to watch as one global superpower got cowed by an even bigger one—in the form a 25-year-old pop star.
The origin of the missile was Swiftopia, a rapidly expanding polis located within the Internet (and possibly a pearlescent cloud-city floating somewhere in the high stratosphere, but this is unconfirmed), presided over by its benevolent Empress, Taylor Swift. On her Tumblr page, Swift posted an entry titled “To Apple, With Love,” which would prove to be a deliciously passive-aggressive gateway into the mogul’s imminent (and intimidatingly polite) evisceration of Apple’s miserly policy. In the post Swift wrote that she would be holding back her massive album 1989 from Apple Music due to unjust compensation for artists, and the company should be ashamed for forcing her to do so.
“I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company,” Swift wrote, adding that “these are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.”
The goodwill building and empathy rallying was classic Swift, setting her up perfectly for the coup de grace: “I think this could be the platform that gets it right. But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
Less than 24 hours after Swift published her open letter, Apple capitulated. Boom. Target neutralized.