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Dear Taylor Swift, About Your Apple Music Deal…

Dear Taylor–

My daughter was so excited to see that you were releasing a concert video on December 20th.  She missed your concert this summer, but she has been getting into your music, and this seemed like the perfect do-over for missing 1989.  We put it on the calendar: Sunday night, mother-daughter time.

And then I read an article about the video: it would be streaming exclusively on Apple Music.  Meaning, if you do not have Apple Music, you cannot see it.

It’s not that we couldn’t get Apple Music; we have the right equipment.  But we don’t want our hand forced in getting Apple Music.

It’s not as if you’re the first artist to offer an exclusive deal on an exclusive service.  There have always been television shows created and aired on a specific station (though, if you wait long enough to watch, you can usually pick up those shows on DVD down the road).  We’ve put our foot down with those shows, too.

There is too much out there vying for our attention, too many good pieces of art that ask for our eyes and ears.  I long ago discovered that there is no television show, no movie, no music offered exclusively that is better than what is offered without hoops to jump through despite what the zeitgeist or magazines or award shows would like to have us believe.  It’s just different.

And as is, I will never be able to consume all the great movies and television shows and music out there that is available on multiple platforms for easy viewing.  Why would I ever forgo the art that the creators clearly want me to see and make it easy for me to consume and head towards a video that makes me purchase additional services and watch on a specific device?

It’s like turning down a playdate with Betty Finn to play croquet with the Heathers.

Because you know what these sorts of deals feel like?  They feel like a clique.  Instead of being inclusive, inviting the fan in to enjoy more time with their favourite artists, they feel like a girl talking about the great party she threw over the weekend.  The one that you weren’t invited to but you’re supposed to feel badly because you missed out on something that was so. damn. cool.  And… that’s really unattractive.  Especially to a 41-year-old.

Artists deserve to be paid, but this is a money grab.  It’s not for your fans, it’s for you.

So we reject that.  And we’re buying a different movie instead.  Oh, we’ll still have mother-daughter night on the 20th.  It will just be with a different musician’s concert video.

And lest you feel that you are being singled out, this message goes for all of the shows offered solely on Amazon or Hulu or Netflix.  I’m sure Transparent and Casual and Jessica Jones are great.  But you know what is even better?  Giving my hour to a show that makes it easy for me to watch.


1 Beth { 12.15.15 at 8:22 am }

I agree with this so much! We were gifted a Netflix subscription when we brought home our second daughter and I do love it, but it was not to watch a specific show. My husband and I have this discussion often – we reject the expensive cable channels, Amazon, HuluPlus for your exact reasons. There is already so much out there, and I don’t like being manipulated.

2 Cristy { 12.15.15 at 8:59 am }

What you’re addressing here is a larger issue of corporation influence on art. Specifically that certain musicians/actors (and even writers) get pushed to the public, but always with the idea of making money. So deals are signed for Apple Music or Amazon or Netflix, etc pushing for product placement or exclusive deals.

I’m with you about not liking this. Specifically because I’ve seen the other side where friends who are artists struggle to get their work out for the public to see. Corporations really do a number on them with preventing any type of exposure. So we go so far to not only refuse certain deals, we also support indie projects.

3 Ana { 12.15.15 at 9:14 am }

I don’t know if I understand what you are getting at here…did you want Swift’s video to be freely available on multiple platforms? Or to be able to just “pay as you go” for the one thing? If Netflix or Amazon actually produces the show, why would they give it to the other to show? When NBC makes a show, its on NBC and worse, if AMC or some other cable channel makes it, you have to get an entire cable package to watch. And you’d have to have a television because not all channels stream on the internet. Or you could buy the album, or DVDs of the show or concert, which is a bit of a gamble, because you’re out a chunk of money for something you may or may not enjoy.
I guess I”m not sure what you (and other commenters above) would want as the preferred way for a show or concert to be offered to viewers.

4 a { 12.15.15 at 9:31 am }

I don’t mind however artists want to make money – it’s a difficult thing for them to do, these days. Because there is so much free content available, I can’t blame Taylor Swift for going with whoever is going to offer her the best return. Regardless, eventually everything will end up on DVD or YouTube or Vimeo, so I won’t feel excluded. I know what I have to do to get a first look and it’s just not that important to me.

Nice Heathers reference, though. I love that movie!

5 Mel { 12.15.15 at 9:43 am }

Most television shows, movies, music, etc come out (eventually) on multiple platforms. So while you may need to wait, it eventually is released in a form that works for the individual to purchase/view. So I may not have HBO, but I can buy the Soprano DVDs. If I don’t want to purchase cable, I can wait until the end of a season and buy most television shows on iTunes. The artist meets the consumer and offers multiple options to purchase and view their work. I never want the art to be offered for free — artists need to be paid.

But Taylor Swift’s deal is different as are random shows on Amazon or Hulu et al. They use these shows to get subscribers. Swift made an exclusive deal with Apple Music. Her concert will not be offered any other way (though that is subject to change if they don’t get enough subscribers). It will not be released on DVD later or available through iTunes in a few months. So the only way to see it is to subscribe to Apple Music.

6 Ana { 12.15.15 at 10:06 am }

OK, I get that. Its the lack of any alternate current or future platforms with which to watch. Which makes sense with the concert—she could release it later as a DVD you can buy. (though, since it would be way after everyone else watched it on Apple Music and so you are still sort of “out of the club” if you care about that, right?)
But again, with shows like Transparent, which is produced by Amazon Studios—I can see why Amazon isn’t letting you watch it on Netflix, for example. Isn’t the whole point of your business as a content provider to…produce good content so that people will subscribe to your service? If Netflix didn’t have any good shows on, why would anyone ever pay $7.99 a month for it? I don’t see a problem with the business model overall. I know you guys watch TV shows—do you pay for cable? How do you access the shows you watch? We have a cable monopoly in our city so if you want to watch cable (and there are certain shows that are only on cable, that I don’t know if they will ever be available on a DVD or on Netflix) you are forking out to Comcast. No different (and way more expensive) then what Netflix or Amazon Prime are doing.

7 Ana { 12.15.15 at 10:07 am }

Sorry I’m not trying to be a bitch, I’m just a bit confused still. I’m usually all about sticking it to the man, but this one is going over my head!

8 Working mom of 2 { 12.15.15 at 10:32 am }

I get this, except I find it strange that you single out Hulu and Netflix. I like that they have shows because that is ALL we have–no cable. I’m so glad for Hulu and Netflix bc together they have most of our shows and we pay $17 per month total for tv vs a huge cable bill. Plus we have a small mohu antenna on one tv for watching tv live once in a while (like dwts or morning news shows in the rare event I’m home alone).

9 Mel { 12.15.15 at 10:36 am }

I don’t think you’re being a bitch at all! They’re good questions.

I have zero problem if it’s offered in one place exclusively for a period of time and then offered via multiple places down the road. But contracts like the one Taylor Swift has with Apple definitely benefits the company (lures in new subscribers), may benefit the performer (short term gain, but harder to get new fans), but doesn’t benefit the viewer. Her concert will only be offered via this one method. Period. It won’t be released on DVD or iTunes down the road. It’s either purchase Apple Music or don’t see it at all.

Oh, I definitely understand why Netflix creates a show and then refuses to release it via any other method. But, again, it definitely benefits Netflix. It may or may not benefit the performer — usually not because it reaches a smaller audience. And it doesn’t benefit the viewer because the viewer has the method of consumption dictated to them. And has to pay monthly in order to keep access (vs. purchasing a show on iTunes and then able to view it again and again at your viewing leisure for a single price).

I have multiple methods for viewing shows — cable, purchasing them, etc. If the show can’t be accessed via one of the many methods already in place for viewing, I don’t add another method. I just drop the idea of seeing the show.

10 jjiraffe { 12.15.15 at 11:21 am }

I am going to have to disagree about subscription based services like Netflix and HBO being a bad thing. The reason for the high quality of shows like “Master of None,” “Transparent,” “Orange is the New Black” etc can be tied to the fact that subscription based services can afford to take greater creative risks on unknowns like Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, etc and give them the reigns while network shows can’t for lots of reasons, but mostly shareholder concerns (simplifying – yes – but basically this is the case). This leads to a much more diverse and wonderful viewing experience where women have great roles and leading roles and viewers get to watch amazing TV. Worth it in my opinion.

11 Mel { 12.15.15 at 11:27 am }

Definitely that is true for non-network options. But Amy Schumer is Comedy Central — not a subscription service. And I would argue that the shows on subscription services aren’t “better” they are simply different. They are allowed to tackle subjects that they won’t on network television — or, not in the same way — and they are allowed to speak with fewer restrictions.

I can’t really get behind the idea that the way women can have great roles is to have viewers pay a monthly fee. Can we really say that subscription service shows are of higher quality? I think people who watch Empire or Scandal would disagree. There are plenty of ways women can have great roles that doesn’t place the financial burden on the viewer if we support the shows being produced that portray women the way we want them to be portrayed.

12 jjiraffe { 12.15.15 at 11:58 am }

I would argue that the high quality shows made on Netflix etc are a big reason why shows like Empire get made – they’ve raised the bar for all TV, and that leads to these shows. It also has proved diverse casts and subjects can succeed, something network TV can shy away from. Here’s a good summary of why subscription services have led to w golden age of TV: http://screenrant.com/best-tv-shows-golden-age-television/?view=all

13 Noemi { 12.15.15 at 12:03 pm }

I understand the frustration with Tatlor Swift and Apple Music, because Apple didn’t produce her concert, she just sold them the exclusive rights. I don’t really understand the frustration with Netflix and Hulu because they produce those shows, specifically to lure subscribers, so why shouldn’t they use their exclusive distribution of those shows as a way to entice people to subscribe? HBO could choose to do the same with their shows, and I wouldn’t fault them for it. I think they make them available on DVD eventually because they make money more money that way, and they hope if people get hooked on a show, they will subscribe to watch future seasons. I actually wonder if they will continue to do that, as I can’t imagine DVD sales are great these days.

14 SRB { 12.15.15 at 12:21 pm }

I do understand your frustration with this, especially living in Canada where out access is even further restricted because of licensing issues. Different Netflix, different Amazon etc etc and all limited.

Looks like Apple Music has become another member of Taylor’s #SQUAD, which is a whole other kettle of fish. You can’t sit with us! 😉

15 Chris { 12.15.15 at 12:42 pm }

HBO does make shows available on DVD. As a long time fan of the Newsroom, who owns all three (very short) seasons I can attest to the fact that they not only sell them, but sell them for much higher prices than your average TV show. We’re DVD junkies around here so we can continue to enjoy content we loved and skip the stuff we don’t. But, I also wouldn’t join a subscription service in order to watch a show or a concert. I’ve heard great things about JEssica Jones, but sorry nope not joining Netflix to see it.

16 Queenie { 12.15.15 at 7:54 pm }

I love my subscription services, especially when we are overseas, as it provides some normalcy and an escape from foreign language programming–but don’t even get me started on the licensing issues SRB mentions. The fracturing of platforms brings choice and competition, but also complicate. Sometimes I long for my four channel childhood.

17 Middle Girl { 12.15.15 at 11:16 pm }

I cut the cable cord because the cost was just through the roof and just not worth it. I exist primarily on broadcast TV, not even renting DVDs for a long, long time. I did Hulu (before the Plus) which was free. I do now pay the montly fee but it is less than breakfast at a local diner. I share the Hulu with my daughter and she shares her Netflix with me–in those plus broadcast, we have all the TV we need–minus specialty sports programming.

I don’t have any particular problem with any artist or producer choosing to release their product exclusively to whatever portal. If is is one I already have access to, fine. If not, oh well.

I am past caring about that which I cannot / (will not) change.

Clearly, this is the new normal.

18 loribeth { 12.30.15 at 4:16 pm }

I’m not into Taylor Swift & I still listen to my music on the radio or on CDs 😉 but I get what you’re saying. I find the array of choices & listening/viewing/reading options today absolutely mind-boggling… and frustrating, when you hear about something that sounds interesting, only to find out it’s not available to you personally, because you dont’ have the “right” technology or the “right” subscription service or live in the “right” area. I try to keep up the times, but as dh & I have muttered over the past few weeks, trying to figure out our new “smart” TV & HDTV box, there is only so much new technology two aging baby boomers can master at once (let alone afford). :p 😉 And I echo what SRB said about the frustrations of trying to access content here in Canada. The Buffalo PBS station derives a huge portion of its revenues from Canadian viewers, but Canadians cannot view most of the videos posted on PBS.com. :p If I miss an episode of “Sherlock” I am out of luck, at least until the DVD is released. Boo, hiss. :p

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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