To launch it’s new Apple Music streaming service, Apple recently offered a three-month trial to the public. Great idea. But Apple (who incidentially is worth about $729 billion) planned to not pay the artists for their music during the trial period, which means that Apple would essentially be having the artists themselves underwrite the promotion. As many of you already know, Taylor Swift was the most vocal artist objecting to the idea, and her criticism was the strongest reason Apple finally backed down. How she did it is a great lesson in protesting anything you consider an injustice. Here’s what we can learn:
1) She kept it civil. It all started when she wrote an open letter to Apple on Tumblr: “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.”
Note that she didn’t criticize the integrity of the company or their leadership. She actually noted their “historically progressive and generous” past. Starting out by ripping into your opponent gives them few options for responding in a positive way. Taylor took the high road and it allowed Apple to save face. That’s a significant reason they turned around so quickly.
2) She made an honest comparison. “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Hard to argue with the logic. Again, no nasty remarks, just a real physical comparison that gives everyone an idea of what’s at stake.
3) Finally, she reminded Apple that actions from her past show what she is capable of doing. Earlier, she had withheld her entire catalog of music from Spotify because of their low pricing structure, so Apple understood she would probably withhold her newest (and highly popular) album “1989.”
Literally within hours, Apple caved and reversed its decision. I applaud Taylor Swift for standing up because she has the clout that thousands of smaller artists don’t have. But she also made a principled stand that didn’t drive the opponent away, marginalize them, or create an enemy. At the same time, she showed she was a serious adversary.
It’s a good lesson to learn next time anyone wants to make significant change happen.