Take a leaf out of Taylor Swift’s book

Enrique Dans
Jun 22, 2015 · 3 min read

Yesterday, Sunday, Taylor Alison Swift wrote an open letter to the world’s largest and most powerful company, Apple. In the letter, published on her personal Tumblr page, the award-winning 25-year-old singer-songwriter told the company that she would not be making her music available on the recently launched Apple Music because the service would not be paying any kind of royalties to artists, composers or producers during its first months, which would be free of charge to the public.

Swift, a multi-instrumentalist who also writes and produces much of her own music, says that the issue at stake is not so much the amounts of money involved, but the principle that music can be considered something that can be offered free of charge during negotiations, and the repercussions of this for other, less successful, artists.

We’re not talking about just anybody here. Swift is one of the most successful artists around, and who has already turned her wrath on Spotify, withdrawing her music from the streaming service in November 2014 after accusing it of offering too much free music and not paying musicians enough. Daniel Ek, Spotify’s founder, replied to Swift in no uncertain terms, calling her arguments “myths”, and although the following month was the company’s most successful, due in large part to promotions, Swift’s decision was a damaging blow to Spotify’s image.

For Apple, winning the music distribution battle is vital. Aside from having bought Beats for $3 billion to give some form to Apple Music, it has brought in figures from the music world such as Trent Reznor, as well as carrying out exhaustive negotiations with labels that aim to “put the profits and value back into music that Spotify and other similar services are not capable of doing.” It responded to Swift’s letter almost immediately, and within a few hours had sent out several tweets from the Twitter account of Eddy Cue, one of the company’s leading directors, and the man who played a key role in presenting Apple Music at the recent WWDC. The three tweets are unambiguous, and aimed at clearing up any doubts.

The company will pay all due royalties as well as absorbing the costs of the three-month launch period. The financial cost will be considerable, but obviously nothing that the most cash-rich company in the world cannot handle: more importantly, it changes the negotiations that have been underway in recent months.

And what brought about this volte face that will involve several million dollars? Not a meeting, nor a newspaper article, nor through the mainstream media, but through a Tumblr page, as used by millions of people around the world to write blogs, and one of Yahoo’s few remaining assets that is worth anything.

Similarly, the response wasn’t made at a press conference or via a press release: it was made public using Cue’s personal Twitter account. Swift’s original message has prompted 65,000 reactions, while Cue’s has been retweeted up to 9,600 times, between the 2,300 and 12,000 most favorited.

If you think you know something about business communication, think again. If you are a company director and are wondering if you should sign up to Twitter, then you still haven’t caught on. It’s not who communicates so much as how you communicate: whether it’s company results, the launch of a new product, or negotiations where you need the world to know about their possible impact. Today, this is how communication works: news moves at web speed, and the weapon being used is the corporate blog, personal pages, or Twitter accounts. The metrics of success are no longer “somebody has published your press release,” or full-page ads wherever, but the comments, the reactions, the retweets, replies, and favorites you an generate. If you’re doing anything else, you might as well forget about anybody picking up on what you have to say.


(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

Enrique Dans

Written by

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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