An open response to Taylor Swift’s rant against Apple

* Updated : Following a statement released by Taylor Swift’s UK agent, I have responded here*

Dear Taylor Swift,

I have read your open letter to Apple where you give your reasons for refusing to allow your album ‘1989′ to be included on their forthcoming Apple Music streaming service.  

(For reference:

I applaud it. It’s great to have someone with a huge following standing up for the rights of creative people and making a stand against the corporate behemoths who have so much power they can make or break someone’s career. 

For instance, you say:

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company

It is shocking, like you say, that any company should expect to exploit artists.  It’s not on at all.

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows

Ah..  but this is the thing Taylor, you say it’s not about you – but clearly it is.  Why else would you make such a public statement about how you’re standing up for the rights of new artists and bands?  Are you really supportive of other artists?

These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

And this is the echoed sentiment of every professional photographer.  Some are afraid to speak up for fear of being blacklisted by management and PR companies who seek to control the public perception of their talent..  For every artist that is in a secure enough financial and influential position to stand up against the likes of Apple without having to worry that Apple will publicly block your ability to earn a living from their iTunes market place, there are hundreds of professional concert photographers who don’t enjoy that security..  they don’t have the voice you do, and they don’t have the public favour that you have when it comes to demanding fair rights for their work, and they have a much higher risk of being prevented from working in future, not just at your shows, but any show which is connected by the same promoter, venue, PR, or management company.

Which brings me to the point of this open response to you.  I admire your message, I really do.  I just think it loses the gravitas it rightly deserves, because of this:

2011 Concert Photo Authorization Form Firefly rev 1 26 1100055994 2

Now..  forgive me if I’m wrong, but if you take points 2 and 3 in that contract (which is provided to Photographers who need to agree to those terms before they are allowed to do their job in photographing you for editorial outlets), it appears to be a complete rights grab, and demands that you are granted free and unlimited use of our work, worldwide, in perpetuity.  You say in your letter to Apple that “Three months is a long time to go unpaid”.  But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity….

How are you any different to Apple?  If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great..  make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support.  But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?

Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation

With all due respect to you too Taylor, you can do the right thing and change your photo policy.  Photographers don’t ask for your music for free.  Please don’t ask us to provide you with your marketing material for free.

Time to stop being ‘Mean’. 


Jason Sheldon 


515 thoughts on “An open response to Taylor Swift’s rant against Apple”

  1. Well said Jason to meny Big Arist are now happy to try and rip off Photographers. They soon forget what it’s like to be skint and tring to make a living.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. excuse me for sending this post from a burner account, but i thought that this story may be interesting to you.

      it is not the same case as this ones, however it does hold some weight when it comes to taylor swift being hypocritical when it comes to the art of photography.

      if you look at the images and the screen shots, it is pretty clear that not only did taylor steal the photo, she did not even say she was going to do so to the photographer. she blatantly stole the image and used it to boost her likeness and branding.

      loved your letter,
      hope you find this story interesting.


      Liked by 9 people

    2. What you Photographers forget is that, like Apple, you are parasitic. Unlike Apple, it’s symbiotic, but still, your photos of Ms. Swift would be of no particular value without her talent and that of the dozens of other paid professionals that help her look and sound great. So you’re gettng use of her talent, her fame, her celebrity, and her image. You aren’t paying HER for that, so why should she be paying you to use images of her own person?

      She stood up for all musicians and artists (including photographers) with this, and has the clout to make a difference. That someone would disparage her for doing so is questionable at best.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. This has me thinking. There was a piece that was on Last Week Tonight (admittedly comedy news) about revenge pornography, and how women, in order to get those pictures taken down had to essentially take nude pics of themselves and get a copyright, in order to have those photos removed from those websites.

      So my question is: if the Taylor Swift brand have such a copywright over images of her performances or even just images of her aren’t they asserting their rights by making sure they can track those images?

      I understand that photographers are artists as well and that it is more than the subject of a photograph that makes for a compelling image. But, do you pay the people who are in your photos?

      Liked by 3 people

    4. Well said. I’m a wedding officiant in NJ, and I am so appreciative of any photos that my event photographers send my way. I always try to give appropriate credit and links and go out of my way to recommend my faves.

      Taylor Swift is fast becoming the Kardashian of the music industry; anything for publicity.

      Liked by 4 people

    5. To all those who aren’t getting why this is a big deal, let’s use a metaphor to explain the situation the photographers are in:

      Imagine Taylor Swift was commissioned to perform her song ‘Blank Space’, for a cost of $10,000, once in front of the Sultan of Dubai. She will be paid the money by a third party, ‘Royal Life Magazine’, which is interested in covering the life of the Sultan. Pretty good, eh? $10,000 to perform one song.

      Except, Taylor gets a contract saying that she can only perform the song once, but cannot ever perform it again after performing for the Sultan. She can’t perform the song on Kimmel Live, can’t perform it on tour, can’t perform it on MTV, or KROQ, or on her YouTube channel, her personal website… not anywhere else. She’s had her one use of the song, that’s it.

      MEANWHILE, the contract insists that the Sultan, who has paid Taylor no money, is free to use ‘Blank Space’ as much as he likes. He can play it every time he’s on TV, whenever he’s coming off of a lear-jet, he can film TV commercials and use the song, he can make his own films and use the song as a backdrop to that film…

      Would Taylor sign such a contract? Is such a contract respectful of her as an artist? Or is she getting a raw deal here? Does she rely on being able to exploit ‘Blank Space’ across multiple mediums (radio, Vimeo, iTunes, Best Buy) to make a living?

      Think about this metaphor. Photographers are creative artists. Don’t be the Sultan, Taylor.

      Liked by 5 people

    6. Shouldn’t the photographers’ disagreement be with the agency hiring them to spend their own money and time without promise of sufficient recompense?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Do creative people need to be Taylor Swift before big Tech listens to The Rights of The People in The U.S. United States Patent and Trademark Office Office or in The U.S. Copyright Office? If so, then I need more Facebook “friends” or followers. How about Google? Yahoo! and other Powerful Tech Companies? Do they respect it? Wait three (3) months and we’ll tell you if you getting paid or not…LOL

      Liked by 5 people