When Taylor Swift announced on her 26th birthday Sunday that footage of one of the last stops on her highly lucrative “1989” World Tour would be turned into a concert film available exclusively on Apple Music, people saw a business relationship that had been on the rocks just getting cozier. Viewed more closely, they might have seen a move that highlights how aggressively streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify have been pursuing content that will set them apart from one another.
The fight for top-flight concert footage in particular has been raging for a while and shows no signs of slowing down. Streaming services know that live concert footage is a major draw that can easily be integrated into their services and a great way to potentially separate themselves from their competitors.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 13, 2015
While only a small handful of artists have the clout and popularity necessary to secure a deal like this one, high-profile artists have begun using footage of their tours to wrangle expensive deals out of corporate sponsors and streaming services. In late October, the New York Post reported that Adele’s managers were chatting with Apple about the prospect of a $30 million tour sponsorship.
Days later, the same paper reported that Rihanna had secured a $25 million deal from Samsung, which gave the South Korean device maker the chance to be “integrally involved” in the pop star’s forthcoming world tour, as well as an exclusive right to video content, which it would share with users of its Milk Music service.
One streaming service, the Jay Z-owned Tidal, has already made it clear that presenting exclusive live shows will be a key component of its strategy to attract and retain subscribers. It is actively leveraging the relationships it has with its famous shareholders. Last month, Coldplay, whose frontman, Chris Martin, holds a stake in Tidal, streamed a concert the band played in Los Angeles. This week, Tidal will stream a show featuring electronic music star Deadmau5 and star rapper Pusha T.
These deals are seen as appealing because the market for streaming concerts has been growing healthily, fueled not just by interest in massive festivals like Coachella but by interest from advertisers such as Red Bull, Coca-Cola and T-Mobile.
It's not clear how much money Swift and her team will earn from this film, only that she's earning something. A rep from Big Machine Records, the label that holds the rights to Swift’s recordings, told Re/code that it will get a piece of whatever Apple pays out. Whatever the total, it's likely to be hefty, because it will give Apple the chance to market with Swift during the important holiday season.