We're still days away from the launch of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new streaming music platform, and the consumer tech giant is showing that it's never beyond singing a different tune.
Apple Music is reversing its initial stance under which it would not pay artists royalties during subscriber free-trial periods, something that was angering a growing number of indie labels, as well as major recording acts including Adele and Taylor Swift.
Swift called Apple out over the weekend, explaining why she wouldn't make her latest album -- 1989 -- available on Apple Music. Swift's main sticking point was that Apple was offering a three-month trial to get folks hooked on the streaming service that launches on June 30, but it wasn't going to pay royalties for any music consumed in that time. In short, the songwriters, performers, and record labels would bear the burden of the label's subscriber-acquisition costs.
"I'm sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service," Swift wrote on her Tumblr page Sunday. "I'm not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company."
She went on to argue that this isn't really about her. Swift is generating enough fan support to compensate her well by going on the road. Her concern is for the younger and less-established artists who might not be able to afford giving away their streaming rights on Apple's platform for three months.
"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," she concluded. "We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation."
Well, Apple listened -- and fast. Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, was pushing out tweets on Sunday night to explain that the class act of Cupertino would pay royalties after all.
#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer's free trial period— Eddy Cue (@cue) June 22, 2015
Doing the right thing
Apple's original position was risky, and it's one of the three things I singled out last week as potentially tripping up Apple Music. Its new platform already faces an uphill battle with the two leading music streaming services reaching a combined 154 million active listeners.
One can always argue that it took Swift pulling her popular album -- and Cue called out Swift by name -- for Apple to respond to smaller artists making the same claim, but all that matters is the tech titan is finally doing the right thing.
Apple couldn't afford to head into next week's launch of its revamped streaming service with angry artists. As consumption tastes change -- going from the digital purchases that Apple dominates to streaming subscriptions in which it's a distant bronze medalist -- it did not want to mess this up.
So, if anything, this public spat and reversal by the consumer tech giant couldn't be any more brilliant if it had been orchestrated by Apple itself. Swift got folks riled up about the free streaming, and in comes Cue -- on cue -- surfing on that wave of publicity to do the right thing hours before the market opened on Monday morning.
After all, it was pretty predictable. Swift pulled 1989 from Spotify last year, arguing it wasn't paying enough. How could she put up with Apple Music paying artists a lot less -- nothing -- during the three-month trial? Well-played, Apple. You might finally be singing the right tune in digital music.
Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.