Stakeholders Management in the News

Apple streaming music service was announced at WWDC 2015, the service will be available for a paid monthly subscription. Apple also announced that the first three months of the service will be free.

Apple is usually pretty good at understanding its customers – one of their biggest stakeholders – and offering the service for free for 3 months sounds like a good way to get people started and try the service without commitment.

However, there is a group of stakeholders that Apple seems to have ignored on this occasion: the artists whose music will be streamed. Just under a week after the announcement, one of the most iconic member of this stakeholder group, Taylor Swift, wrote an open letter to Apple to complain about those 3 months “free” streaming because this would mean no revenues for artists:

We can speculate about how this all happened. It’s likely that Apple did not involve artists upfront because of the usual secrecy wrapped around any product launch and that artists discovered about the terms and conditions right after the service was announced. Or maybe majors were aware and did not or could not complain, possibly because of Apple’s bargaining power.

Beyond those speculations, Apple has been quick to respond to Taylor Swift open letter, and probably considered she is a good representation of this stakeholder group. Apple quickly changed stance and announced that artists will be paid even during the 3 months free trial. Eddie Cue announced it at the tail end of the week-end:

Please check Ars Technica for the full story.

This is stakeholder management at play. Apple probably tried to push the free trial on their own terms but when they understood that a large group of stakeholders of this new service was going to be very upset with this, and effectively pulling content from the streaming service, they quickly changed the terms so that key stakeholders of the service would have their requirements addressed without affecting the service delivered.

What are the lessons with can take away from this when managing projects and programmes?

  • Make sure you identify all stakeholders for your projects and understand what they have to gain (or lose) from the project you are leading;
  • Develop a strategy for each of the stakeholders and monitor how the implementation of this strategy is doing;
  • Adjust as needed and always keep in mind the benefits you are seeking to get from the project.