Taylor Swift has previously been an outspoken critic of free music streaming. She argues that it devalues artists’ work, and she removed 1989 from market-leader Spotify late last year following a dispute over its free, ad-supported tier.
However, it had previously been thought that Swift’s album would be available on Apple Music, which is due to launch on June 30. During the service’s announcement, a link to her most recent video, “Bad Blood,” appeared on screen—implying that Apple had secured the rights to her recent catalog. But clearly that’s not the case.
A representative for Swift’s label, Big Machine, told BuzzFeed News that there “are currently no plans to release 1989 to any streaming service in the near future.” Apple also confirmed that the album would not be present at launch. (Taylor Swift’s older albums will be available on the platform, however.)
This matters more than you might think. Apple is entering the music-streaming race very late and partly out of necessity. While it has long dominated the music-download market via iTunes, downloads are now in decline. And rival Spotify has managed to gain a staggering 86 percent of the on-demand-streaming market. Apple needs to launch Apple Music to remain relevant in the music industry (which is also why it is launching on Android and Windows, to ensure the maximum possible number of users).
Despite Spotify’s dominance of music streaming, concerns have grown among artists about its revenue model, including the allegedly small amounts it pays out to rights holders. Had Apple managed to secure Taylor Swift, it would have sent a strong signal that it had managed to allay industry concerns—and give consumers a compelling reason to pick Apple Music over the alternatives.
According to the Verge, the Beatles are another high-profile band that have refused to put their albums on Apple Music.
Ahead of its big launch, Apple is apparently playing hardball with artists. Brian Jonestown Massacre front man Anton Newcombe claims that the company is threatening to pull his entire back catalog from iTunes if he doesn’t agree to forgo royalties during a three-month trial period Apple is due to offer consumers, Consequence of Sound reports. (Apple has since denied threatening to remove Newcombe’s music.)
This plan to not pay royalties during the trial period has reportedly infuriated artists. According to U.K. music lobbyist Andy Heath, no independent British labels have so far agreed to let their music be used in the trial—threatening to kneecap the music selection available to consumers during that first crucial period.