When it was revealed to the public and the music industry that Apple’s new music streaming service would be free to subscribers for the first three months, it was similarly revealed that the artists supplying the music for the medium would not be paid for their work. Thus arose the winged angel of the industry, the former country singer turned pop starlet, Taylor Swift. In an open letter published to her Tumblr on June 21, T-Swift wrote honestly about the injustice that was to befall the writers, producers and artists who would not receive a paycheck from Apple for their hard work.
This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. 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.
Although Swift had become the largest voice in the fight against Apple’s indignation, she was not the sole proprietor of echoes bouncing off the walls in music land. On Monday evening, Scott Borchetta – the man responsible for signing the blonde dynamo when she was just 14 – spoke at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, and he took attendees inside the machinations of Apple’s reversal of their stance on the streaming service’s pay structure.
Several days before the service was to go live, Borchetta contacted Apple and openly disagreed with their decision to not pay the musicians whose work they would be peddling. “I can’t support this, you need to pay us from the first stream,” Borchetta told Apple execs.
The record executive’s salvo was a strong one, but it would need some backing. Enter the angelic typing hands of Taylor Swift. Just as Borchetta was rallying the ammunition against Apple, Swift texted him with a link to the now infamous open letter that would sway the tides of change.
“She literally texted me and said, ‘Don’t be mad,’ with the link. She was in Europe. I responded and said, ‘You don’t have any idea how good your timing is right now.’ ”
The day after T-Swift’s letter dropped, Borchetta engaged in another series of talks with Apple music execs Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue. He let them know that they could set the standard in which artists are compensated properly for a streaming service. By nightfall, Apple had changed their minds, giving in to the industry and public pressure to do the “right thing” by handing over the moolah to the musicians. Borchetta had won. Taylor Swift had won. Music was the champion on that night, with the artists themselves carrying the banner of victory.
Thus ends the tale of Taylor Swift’s magical typing hands whose very pluck of the keys no doubt signals an angel to ring a bell of remembrance, for Swift managed to topple a technology giant and bring forth perhaps a new era in streaming compensation. For that, she will be revered.