Following the drama between Taylor Swift and Spotify, the pop sensation has signed a deal giving Apple Music exclusive access to a documentary of her recent ‘1989’ tour. The relationship, which Swift announced on Twitter yesterday, also grants Apple the temporary ability to use the star’s likeness to promote their service, meaning just about anything from her brand on large displays in their stores to stamping her face on iTunes gift cards.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 13, 2015
This comes roughly a year after Swift spoke out against Spotify and its method of paying artists, which was followed by a subsequent confrontation of Apple Music over their plan to not pay royalties to artists during a user’s three-month free trials. The tech company surprisingly responded by abandoning the idea, and unsurprisingly took the opportunity to propose a partnership with Swift instead, securing a huge demographic in the process.
This decision isn’t exactly anything ground-breaking. Apple partnered with big names like Drake and Pharrell Williams earlier on, and they’re consistently grabbing artists to come on its new exclusive Beats 1 radio station for worldwide premiers and interviews.
With the company now setting foot into television via Apple TV, it has likely become very clear from their competitors in that field (i.e. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, ect.) that it’s all about exclusive content. It’s the same principle with music, and it’s been that way for a while.
Before Swift was partnered with Apple Music, she had Comcast, who was the lead sponsor for the icon’s 1989 tour. This gave Comcast customers access to on-demand video content based around Swift, as well as the opportunity to win a backstage tour and meet-and-greet with the star.
Before that was iHeartRadio, which agreed to pay Swift’s label, Big Machine, for broadcast plays and online streams so long as the radio company got to attach their name to its promotion of the 1989 album. Preceding that was Target, who partnered with the pop star for her prior three albums. The retail chain held exclusive deluxe editions of each record, featuring three bonus tracks, while giving the albums tons of promotion through television ads and behind the scenes content for one of the bonus track’s music video.
It’s a classic scenario in the music industry, but as the market changes we’re beginning to see it leak into the streaming world. With artists like Adele and Coldplay intentionally keeping their music off of the streaming services, companies such as Apple or Google are bound to be throwing offers their way to get exclusive marketing opportunities just like Comcast or Target. This way the company gets great exposure for their streaming service, and the artist gets a nice fat check for effectively renting out their image.
It’s possible this practice of withholding content in portions of the market will become the norm very soon as a means of acquiring some extra profit – the only question is how users will respond. Those who pay for music streaming subscriptions, whether it be Spotify, Apple Music, or TIDAL, seem to be a bit of a unique market. If it gets to the point where one has to switch between services just to change from Taylor Swift to Jay Z, what’s the appeal for sticking with streaming instead of just downloading the music right to your computer? It’ll be interesting to see where companies draw the line for exclusivity, as right now they seem to be only hosting exclusive premiers and videos. But what happens if an entire album can only be streamed in one place?