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Taylor Swift’s snub of Apple a jarring note for free music streaming

taylor swift

1989 on Apple's iTunes.

Taylor Swift’s refusal to put her most recent album on Apple’s upcoming music-streaming service could hand the maker of the iPod and creator of the iTunes music downloads library a setback in its efforts to remain relevant in the music business.

Ms. Swift declined to put her bestselling album “1989” on the service, saying doing so would devalue the work, Buzzfeed reported. The move, which prompted Apple to reverse its policy of not paying musicians royalties during the three-month free trial period of its new music platform, and follows Ms. Swift’s removal of her catalog from Spotify last year, focuses attention on Apple’s prospects for succeeding in its late entry into music-streaming set to launch June 30. 

“Taylor Swift earlier this year announced that she would be limiting Spotify’s access to her music,” said Shuli Lowy, marketing director for mobile with Ping Mobile. “While the announcement made major headlines, it did not slow down the growth or usage of Spotify's streaming service. 

“Swift’s announcement to limit access to Apple’s streaming service is an even weaker threat,” she said. “That’s because dedicated fans who purchase Swift’s album through iTunes will still be able to access it through Apple's music streaming service, so the music is not as limited.”

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Back catalog 
A representative for Ms. Swift's label, Big Machine, said there are no plans to release “1989” to any streaming service, Buzzfeed reported. Apple also said the album would not be part of its new service, although Ms. Swift's back catalog will be on the platform. 

Apple Music promotion.

Apple thus will have an edge over Spotify, the leading music streaming service from which Ms. Swift yanked 1989 following a dispute over its free, ad-supported tier. Spotify’s revenue model and small payouts to right holders have sparked concern among artists.

Ms. Swift focused attention on Apple’s policy when she wrote a blog post slamming Apple for its plan not to pay artists while its streaming service was in its trial phase.

Apple’s iTunes has long dominated the music downloads space, but as more consumers move away from curating music tracks and embrace on-demand streaming, downloads are in decline. 

Apple is launching the new service on Android and Windows to boost its potential audience.

Ms. Swift is one of the leaders in mobile strategy among musical artists. Many artists use their social channels to build their own brand and reputation through connecting with their followers.

In last fall’s release of 1989, Ms. Swift’s mobile strategy showed a sharp understanding of how to leverage mobile to hit the right notes with fans and buyers.

She partnered with multiple mobile-driven brands to keep her social followers on their toes and build anticipation for the new music. Campaigns with brands such as Diet Coke, iHeartRadio and the Ellen DeGeneres Show drove her outreach to mobile savvy fans and generated buzz for the album. 

At the time, Ms. Swift had 12 million followers on Instagram and 45.7 million followers on Twitter. 

In 2012, the official Taylor Swift mobile application was updated to include an augmented reality experience that was triggered when users interacted with the singer’s then-new album, Red.

The music industry has undergone a major paradigm shift as a result of mobile and streaming services. 

When single download services were introduced to the marketplace, consumers were able to purchase just one song instead of an entire album. Apple’s iTunes, which takes about a 30 percent cut from music purchases, benefited from serving as the gateway to purchasing music. 

As consumers shift more of their music listening to streaming services and buy less music, Apple, initially hesitant to introduce a service that would detract from its iTunes revenue, is trying to protect its market share.

Unsuccessful efforts
Although some artists are attempting to take back control of their product as monetizing music becomes more difficult, the efforts, such as Jay-Z’s alternative streaming music application Tidal, have been mostly unsuccessful. 

Taylor Swift and Diet Coke.

“Mobile and streaming services have entirely changed the playing field for monetizing music,” Ms. Lowy said. “Artists are clearly frustrated and feel that they deserve more. 

“For most artists and their record labels the best available route is to leverage mobile and social channels to build a dedicated fan base as well as work with stores and streaming services to monetize their music,” she said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York

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Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

 
Related content: Music, Taylor Swift, Apple, mobile, mobile marketing, mobile commerce, Shuli Lowy, Ping Mobile

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