clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Apple Gets a Giant Taylor Swift Concert Exclusive (Because It Paid Taylor Swift)

Apple Music subscribers get a free concert video, Apple gets a marketing boost and Taylor Swift gets paid.

Michel Porro/Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Remember when Taylor Swift and Apple didn’t get along, and then they patched it up, and then everything was okay?

Well things are even better now: Apple and Swift are syncing up for a multi-pronged deal that will give Apple exclusive rights to a Swift concert video that debuts on Sunday, Dec. 20, as well as her help on a big Apple Music marketing campaign. Swift, apparently, will get a nice check in return.

Here’s Swift’s announcement on Twitter (which, of course, you can also see on Instagram and Facebook):

It’s easy to see what Apple gets out of the deal, because an Apple spokesperson was happy to talk about it: Access to the concert video will be limited to Apple Music subscribers — that’s both the 6.5 million people (or more) who are paying for the music service and anyone in the free, three-month trial.

Apple also gets the ability to use Swift’s name and likeness in promotions at its stores, where it will have big displays as well as Taylor Swift-branded iTunes gift cards for sales; Swift is also going on Apple’s Beats 1 Radio tomorrow to talk about the concert with Zane Lowe, Apple’s chief DJ.

Or to sum it up: Apple gets access to one of the world’s biggest stars to promote its music service and more (the concert will stream on Apple TV, for instance) during the holiday shopping season.

Swift’s side of the deal is fuzzier, since no one is talking about it on the record. But sources say she’s getting paid for it, and I’m assuming that access to one of the world’s biggest stars doesn’t come cheap.

Another important detail: My understanding is that because the deal is about Swift’s concert, not her album, this is a deal between her and Apple directly. Big Machine, the label that owns her stuff, and Universal Music Group, the label that distributes it, aren’t in on it. (Update: Big Machine rep Jake Basden says the label’s rights do extend to concert videos, and that it participated in the deal and will see money from it.)

So if you like the theory that in the future, big tech companies like Apple, or Google, or Netflix, will end up replacing traditional music labels and music studios as content underwriter/owners, feel free to use this in your next argument.

Except! The flip side of this one is that the deal is only about Swift’s concert, not her music. That’s still owned by the labels, and Apple still needs that to promote its music service (and everything else). If “1989” wasn’t on Apple Music, this one wouldn’t be nearly as interesting to Apple. So you can argue this one either way.

One other music business note: It’s worth viewing this in the light of the back and forth the big streaming services have been having with big acts like Swift, Adele and Coldplay, all of whom have been interested in limiting access to their new albums to one degree or another.

It’s possible that we’re headed toward a world where big acts routinely keep their stuff off streaming services altogether (as Adele is doing, for the time being), or limiting access to certain services/business models (like Swift, who is limiting her “1989” album to services like Apple Music, which (mostly) don’t offer free ad-supported streams). But my hunch is that we’re not headed toward an era of long-term exclusives, because I think most consumers simply don’t care.

Instead, I think we will see more of these kinds of deals from the likes of Apple, who is essentially renting Swift’s services for a short-term marketing boost — in the same way that Best Buy and Target used to use CDs as loss-leaders to get people into the stores, where they could sell them stereos and washing machines.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.