Cash-rich Apple is reportedly not paying the artists who share their talents for the in-store ‘Today at Apple” sessions.
Rather than money, the session leaders could select from three of the cheaper Apple products.
KQED, a public radio station serving the San Francisco Bay area, interviewed 11 artists who were not given payment for participating in workshops at the Union Square Apple Store. Instead, compensation came in the form of AirPods, Apple TV or Apple Watch Series 3.
This is the latest public relations blunder for Apple – which briefly reached a market value topping $1 trillion last summer – over how it compensates artists. Earlier this year, Apple called on photographers to enter a contest with their iPhone photos. The winning images would go on billboards promoting the camera capabilities of the iPhone.
Under the terms and conditions, it was clear Apple did not plan to pay the winning photographers to use the work to sell iPhones. After blowback on social media, Apple relented and said it would reward the winning shooters with a fee to license the photos.
‘Today at Apple’ artists stuck in exposure economy
The KQED report describes artists unable to negotiate fair pay with Apple, which instead pressure the artists to participate with promises of gear and exposure. This proved a dilemma for some artists, who took a chance hoping a collaboration with a big brand like Apple would somehow pay off.
The story included a scene from a Black History Month installment where playwright Ayodele Nzinga and some spoken-word artists spoke about Oakland’s music history.
During the session, Nzinga talked about how musicians used their talent to lift themselves out of poverty.
Apple recruits artists for “Today at Apple” so that customers can learn how to create with various Apple products and programs. The Apple Store sessions, which take place all over the world, can include iPhone photography, drawing on the iPad or music production with GarageBand.
It is not clear from the KQED report if artists and performers leading the sessions in other parts of the world, get the same deal. Some interviewed did not mind the compensation arrangement with Apple.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and experience,” Vanessa Nguyen told KQED. She performs under the name, Besame as a visual artist and event producer who was part of a session that included performances and a panel discussion with her creative collective, Le Vanguard. “But definitely knowing they’re a giant company that’s not going bankrupt, it’s kind of weird that they can’t compensate talent.”