Conspiracy theorists are abuzz over the recent feud between Taylor Swift and Apple over royalty payments to artists on the new Apple Music streaming service. Some skeptics claim the entire scenario was a publicity stunt to promote the pop singer and the upcoming Spotify competitor.
Internet conspiracy theorists have moved on from claiming that 9/11 was an inside job to hypothesizing that the recent Taylor Swift-Apple Music feud was, well, an inside job. The naysayers point to the fact that Apple responded unusually quickly to Taylor Swift's open letter in reversing its stand on royalty payments to artists, and argue that the current resolution of the feud suspiciously benefits all parties involved.
Just to recap, Swift threatened to pull her recent smash hit album 1989 from Apple's soon-to-be- introduced streaming service because the company refused to pay artists royalties on their music for the initial three-month free trial period it is offering subscribers upon its June 30 debut. Swift's letter painted her as the champion of the little guy, patronizingly noting that while she is rich enough that the royalties don't mean a thing to her, almost all other less successful struggling artists and producers need those royalties to live and continue making music, and she is bravely taking a stand only for them. The smug letter was very carefully worded in a way that both attacked and brown-nosed Apple at the same time and clearly appears to have been written not by Swift but one or more of her "people."
Apple quickly responded to the letter with a reversal of its decision, weakly explaining that it had never intended to cheat artists out of the royalties for the trial period and had actually planned to reward them with increased royalty rates after the trial period ended — as if the company didn't have enough cash in its coffers to dole it out up front for three months. Swift dutifully responded that she is elated and relieved with the decision, and the two parties metaphorically kissed and made up.
Conspiracy theorists, however, noted that the time between the publication of Swift's letter and Apple's reversal was unusually short, theorizing that the whole thing had been planned in advance. They point out that the publicity alerted millions of potential subscribers who were previously unaware of the existence of Apple Music. Both parties come out looking rosy, they say, with both Swift and Apple appearing to be sympathetic and responsive to the financial needs of struggling artists.
Is that really the case though? Surely, Swift comes out looking great, but does Apple? Even though it quickly changed its position, would the company knowingly plan to subject itself to harsh criticism for its unfeeling, predatory stance and then appear to reverse its decision only due to enormously publicized pressure from a pop superstar? This seems implausible, especially when the company is already being perceived as more and more of an unresponsive and uncaring corporate behemoth. Apple is still reeling from the bad publicity surrounding its botched Apple Watch non-launch launch, in which it appeared as if the company was suddenly dismissing its most loyal fans. One of Apple's most valuable assets is the goodwill it receives from its carefully cultivated (and now questionable) position as the populist "good guy" versus big, bad Microsoft and Google, which is probably why it reversed its position so quickly — to prevent further damage to its rep.
Taylor Swift, of course, comes out looking like the hero in this whole scenario, which seems to have been her calculated intention regardless of how Apple responded, and leaves us feeling as if the whole scenario was not actually a conspiracy between Taylor Swift and Apple, but instead between Taylor Swift and Taylor Swift.