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Former Pandora CTO: The feud between Taylor Swift and Apple is 'mostly theater'

taylor swift bright
taylor swift bright

(YouTube) Taylor Swift

Apple had a big change of heart this weekend after Taylor Swift wrote a Tumblr post decrying Apple's decision not to pay royalties to artists during the free, three-month trial period of its new streaming service, Apple Music.

As of Sunday night, Apple will pay artists even during its trial period.

Apple SVP Eddy Cue credited Swift's letter and complaints from other musicians with making the company change its mind.

In the aftermath of Apple's announcement, Swift has received high praise from many in the music business (including boyfriend Calvin Harris who proudly tweeted that she "just changed the entire music industry").

But the former CTO of music streaming service Pandora isn't impressed.

In a series of tweets, Tom Conrad insists that Apple's concession to pay artists for its three-month trial is nothing to be celebrated.

"Swift's letter and Apple's response is mostly theater," he writes. "Nothing here to suggest Apple treats artists more fairly than anyone else."

Other services, like Spotify, YouTube, Pandora and others, all pay artists for their free tiers and trials too, he argues. Apple isn't going above and beyond in any way, it's just on the same level as everyone else. Before the debacle, Apple had said that it would pay music owners 71.5% of Apple Music's subscription revenue after the trial period ended, which was "a few percentage points higher than the industry standard," to account for the longer trial period.

Now, though, Apple plans to pay rights holders on a per-stream basis, though the company didn't disclose how much it's paying per stream, which is why Conrad argues that there's no way of knowing whether Apple Music will pay artists more than anybody else (Spotify pays 70% of its revenue to labels, which amounted to roughly $1 billion in payouts last year).

"We shouldn't herald this move as progress," he writes. "It's status quo."

Conrad also questions Swift's decision to remove her music from Spotify, and not anywhere else.

Last year, Swift pulled her album "1989" from Spotify, because she thought that the service's free tier "devalued music" and didn't give a big enough cut to artists. But Swift participates in other free services, like YouTube, and her career was based on radio, which is free and doesn't pay recording artists (although songwriters and publishers do earn royalties).

The implication: Swift has engaged in this kind of theater before, and it doesn't actually change anything between the recording industry and the digital services distributing music.

It's unclear at this point whether Swift will let Apple Music users have access to "1989."

Here's Conrad's tweetstorm:

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