The image above is from an older article from Time magazine, but it seems very apropos.
What is the definition of power in today's modern world? Is it the ability to throw around billions of dollars in capitol to change the outcome of events? Is it having the biggest and most powerful army or weapons? Is it the amount of political influence an individual or group can bring to bear on a specific agenda? Is it the amazing accomplishments that can change the world when groups of people come together for a common goal?
Certainly each of these examples definitely qualify as expressions of power, and there are a myriad other unspoken ideas that qualify as well. On hand today we have another example that is a bit more mundane, yet still poignant. Sometimes the power to influence an entire market can come from the smallest actions taken by the most popular person of the moment. This weekend, that action was a simple post to Tumblr, and the person of the moment is Taylor Swift.
In case you missed it, one of the big news items of the end of last week was Apple announcing that they would be offering a three-month free trial period for Apple Music, but they weren't going to be compensating artists during that time. Of course, a large number of independent artists collectively cried out, because this was basically Apple forcing them to take a pay cut in order to entice people to use Apple's product. Sadly, although their complaints probably got the attention of Apple, it wasn't enough to change their policy... but then Taylor Swift came to their rescue.
For those who don't follow pop music, Taylor Swift is currently the queen of pop and her massive popularity and ridiculous volume of album sales give her enormous power. Her newest album, entitled "1989," is a massive hit, selling over 5 million copies when most consumers don't even buy whole albums anymore. In response to Apple's announcement, Swift penned an open letter on Tumblr explaining that she would be pulling her "1989" album from the Apple Music, decrying Apple's decision to strip 3 months of pay from struggling artists.
She made it clear in the letter that she wasn't doing it because she was concerned about the 3 months of money loss for herself (after-all, she is enormously successful and quite wealthy now). Her act of public Apple Music defiance was specifically targeted as a protest to support new and small independent artists who would be hurt most by this policy. Swift knew that these smaller artists didn't have a voice, so she publicly shared her belief that Apple should foot the bill to “pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.” You can find her Tumblr post here to read her full explanation: Tumblr - Taylor Swift
The amazing thing was that her post had an effect within hours. Apple almost immediately reversed course on their decision and Tweeted their new intention of paying artists during that three month trial period. That is a prime example of an expression of power. With just a few paragraphs, the "cult of personality" used its avatar du jour to get a $700 Billion dollar company to realize what a massive PR dung-pile it was about to step into. In fact, it almost makes you wonder what Apple was thinking to begin with.
As an interesting sidenote, Apple isn't completely a "bad guy" in this scenario. According to Apple themselves, the deal they make with artists to be on Apple Music compensates music owners approximately 73% of all subscription revenue on the back end. This is a few points higher than the industry average.
Regardless, it's an impressive turn of events from a single individual. What do you think of Taylor Swift wading into this issue, and what do you think of Apple's quick about face?