APPLE yesterday performed an abrupt U-turn on its decision not to pay royalties during Apple Music's three-month free trial, following protests from independent labels and country singer Taylor Swift.
The music streaming service is due to launch in 100 countries, including Singapore, on June 30, with customers getting the free trial before deciding whether to subscribe.
While the change of heart may initially have caused a public relations embarrassment for the tech giant, the industry is giving Apple the thumbs up for its willingness to tweak its plans.
Mr Colin Goh, co-founder and managing director of Ocean Butterflies Music, one of the biggest independent music labels in Singapore, said: "It shows the kind of respect that Apple has for music publishers, which is not what you get from some other companies."
He would not specify which company would not pay music publishers royalties, but he is understood to mean Apple's rival Spotify.
Its music streaming service has a free streaming tier for which artists and songwriters are not paid royalties.
American singer Swift spoke out against Spotify last year and withheld her entire catalogue from the service.
In a blog post yesterday titled "To Apple, Love Taylor", the 25-year-old called on Apple to abandon its plans for no payouts during its free trial period.
Within a day, Apple's senior vice-president for Internet software and services, Mr Eddy Cue, responded to the star on Twitter, saying: "Apple will always make sure that artist (sic) are paid... We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple."
The singer replied, tweeting: "I am elated and relieved."
However, she has yet to confirm if she will put her music on Apple Music.
Mr Matthew Pollins, digital media lawyer at Olswang Asia, said Apple has set the standard for royalty payments even if music is distributed for free.
"This move will ensure that artists are reimbursed each time their song is streamed, regardless of whether that stream is paid for by the end user or not," he said.
Local singer and songwriter Jaime Wong, 25, is relieved. "We don't get the kind of traffic and exposure that the chart-topping singers do, so every stream counts towards our earnings," she said.
"This move could be a game-changer for the online music industry."