Multimillionaire megastar Taylor Swift - ‘three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing’. Whether this is a PR stunt or not, she and Apple have both received the attention they yearn for.
News emerged on Monday that Apple had made a u-turn on their original stance of not paying artists during their free trial of Apple Music. Whilst the introduction of their own-brand streaming service provides competition for the likes of Spotify and Napster, it has been met by high profile resistance. Taylor Swift’s public letter to Apple has convinced executive Eddy Cue to make the compromise. Indeed, it is not the first time that Swift has been critical of music streaming. Having pulled her back catalogue from Spotify on the basis that ‘music should not be free’, she used her influence to extend this ban to China, where access to free digital music is a national liberty.
As a global superstar, Swift’s influence in China cannot be underestimated. With 4 million Weibo followers, she has more followers than fellow celebrities Beyoncé and Bruno Mars combined. Even since Tim Cook’s introduction to Weibo little more than a month ago, his online influence has grown at a rapid pace. Although he only has 670,000 followers, a comparatively small number to Swift, the rate of growth is comparable to that of the aforementioned singer. In the week before Apple’s announcement, Swift’s fan-base grew by 4,644 whilst Cook’s expanded by 4,489. When we consider that Cook’s daily account engagement is dwarfed by Swift’s - (26,500 to just 98), these are very similar (and impressive) figures, as high engagement usually corresponds with a greater digital following.
This is indicative of Apple’s huge influence and popularity in China. Tim Cook has previously revealed that his company factors Chinese tastes into the designing process, citing the gold iPhone as an example; ‘sales for the gold iPhones in China have far, far exceeded other markets’. Apple’s influence has soared in China in recent times, with its revenue in Q2 2015 up to $16.8 billion from just over $6 billion at the end of 2014.
What does this have to do with Taylor Swift? It makes very interesting reading that since Apple’s change of heart, Swift’s daily growth has increased to an average of 609, whilst Cook’s has dropped to 384. Both brands have gained the attention that they so crave. They are skilled at it. Apple is playing the reformed villain, whilst Swift is the heroine and an unlikely advocate for artists’ rights. They are both happy in these roles, and as the old adage goes - ‘all publicity is good publicity’. With this in mind, there are even claims that Apple’s swift response and humble surrender are the signs of a PR stunt.
These are not outrageous claims. Money is not a concern for Swift, but she has used her power to benefit the music industry and for that she must be applauded. Conspiracies aside, standing up for equality is a trait that the Chinese people favour highly, and it’s a likely reason as to the recent contrasts in fortune between herself and Tim Cook on Weibo.