Billie Eilish recently released an innovative new music video for her sinister single ‘you should see me in a crown’- a collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, it promised to be something incredibly exciting and unorthodox. Previously creating the artwork for Kanye West’s Graduation, the high-profile collaboration is inarguably quite ground-breaking for a 17-year-old girl who has only just released her debut album. Nevertheless, by making the choice to release it on Apple Music, Eilish has excluded a large proportion of her fanbase from ever seeing a video which apparently took eight months to create from start to finish – surely with this amount of time and effort, anyone would want to broadcast it to as many people as possible. So why have Billie Eilish and Takashi Murakami decided to limit its audience?
Releasing exclusive content on Apple Music is nothing new; in fact, the situation with Eilish’s music video is much akin to the controversy surrounding Taylor Swift’s decision to solely release her tour documentary, ‘The 1989 World Tour – Live’ on the platform. In both cases, it excludes many fans from accessing this, establishing a hierarchy among fans – in Swift’s case, many fans who couldn’t attend her tour were the very ones who would so desperately want to watch the tour documentary, yet placing it on Apple Music added another expense that could well be an obstacle in them accessing it.
Apple Music is, of course, a major conglomerate and dominates the technology industry, releasing new versions of the same thing with minor changes which their customers often mindlessly pay hundreds more for; and now it seems they have channelled their indoctrinated capitalism into the music industry by placing this content behind a paywall and limiting who exactly can access it. Obviously, streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify absolutely transformed the music industry and are still completely crucial to it; they mean that listeners have a wealth of musical history constantly being updated at their fingertips, which is so incredibly valuable. However, it reaches a point when it is not just a useful tool in making music more accessible but instead begins to take advantage of the listener.
Billie Eilish, in particular, has a target audience comprised of predominantly young people – she herself is just seventeen, and her own audience fall within a similar age category. At a young age, there is no guarantee that her listeners have their own income – expecting them to fork out an added expense just to keep up to date with their favourite artist, or alternately using their parent’s money which in turn is not fair, unrealistic and to an extent simply unjust. Music at its core is supposed to be something universal, attainable, and inclusive. Streaming was fundamental in restoring this element of music – with Spotify Free still offering wide access to a wide-spanning catalogue of music, there is the capacity to experience music as it should be at no cost. Sadly, it seems the music industry has surpassed this, becoming elitist, which music never should be – and Apple Music’s intervention in this is palpable.
Eilish has previously referred to her fanbase as being like a ‘family’ – yet, in making this music video exclusive to Apple Music, she has isolated a large proportion of them. It is plainly symbolic of a deep-rooted issue within the music industry – of course there is an inescapable capitalist element to the industry itself, as it is driven by money and kept in business by money. Still, when music is ultimately something which can hold so much meaning and value to someone, it feels almost insensitive to allow it to become so cut-off. Music so often comes from places of prejudice, poverty and degradation as a means of coping with these things, so for it to be transformed by corporations into a bourgeois, exclusive thing is morally uncomfortable.
Without a doubt, it goes without saying that Apple are indeed pioneers of technology, paving the way to a future of technological advancements, but they are simultaneously pioneering towards a future where those reaping the benefits will be a select, privileged few. It marks a change in the music industry as it becomes increasingly commercialised and out of reach for the wider public; and thus raises the tragic question: is anything, even our beloved music, sacred and safe from the clutches of capitalism anymore?