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Where is Taylor Swift when you need her?

2015-06-22 17:08

Johannesburg - How did a 25-year-old singer get a major technology company to change its policy? She asked it to. Nicely, of course. 

Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple yesterday caused quite a flurry among musicians. In it, she asked the company to reconsider its decision to not pay artists during the free three-month trial of its music streaming service. And she also threatened to withhold her latest album, 1989, from the service. 

This was the album that put Swift in the record books as the first act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in their opening release week. 

Swift has been called such lofty descriptions as “the defining singer and songwriter of her generation”. Time had her in its top 100 most influential people list for this year. The young woman is not short on followers – she has more than 59 million on Twitter alone. 

But was that the reason for Apple’s surprising U-turn? 

“Apple will always make sure that artist are paid,” tweeted Apple’s senior vice-president for internet software and services Eddy Cue, in response to Swift’s letter. “#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period. We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.” 

It would be so nice if the leaders of all large corporations (for example, South Africa’s government) would respond so directly to calls from people (in other words South Africa’s citizens). 

Apple promised to pay the money. So why won’t President Jacob Zuma pay back the money? Who would it take to persuade him, nicely of course, to at least pay for the nonsecurity upgrades at his private residence? 

Is there anyone out there with the social clout and influence to get things done? 

Trevor Noah, one of South Africa’s most famous exports, isn’t even on top in terms of Twitter fans – he had nearly 2.4 million at the time of writing.

The South African with the most followers on Twitter is vlogger Caspar Lee, with nearly 2.8 million. Second is South-African born Australian actor and singer Troye Sivan with 2.7 million. And South African-born cricketer Kevin Pietersen has 2.6 million followers. 

I doubt Zuma would listen to any of them. But let’s be honest. I doubt I would listen to any of them. 

Pietersen wasn’t exactly gracious regarding his reasons for leaving South Africa. I don’t think Zuma’s fire pool or his cattle pen are giving him sleepless nights. 

Unless Zuma is an X-Men fan (Sivan played young James Howlett in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) or has followed the phenomenon that is the Spud film trilogy. Sivan is probably not on his list of people to follow. In fact, I checked his Twitter account, and he isn’t. 

And Lee, well, Lee ... His most popular vlogs are these: Girlfriend Pranks my Roommate, with a whipping 9.6 million (or thereabouts) views; Bedroom Advice featuring Game of Thrones actress Masie Williams, which racked up more than 9.2 million views; the Roommate Shower Prank, with nearly 7 million views; Crush on Roommates Sister (6.5 million); and Acting Advice from an Adult Actress (6.4 million). It’s not exactly life-changing stuff. No Nkandla Prank or Cattle Crush or Paying Back the Money Advice is happening on that YouTube channel. 

South Africa desperately needs a Taylor Swift. Someone who, with the stroke of a keyboard, gets the powers that be to rethink not paying the money. 

Even with his much-talked about Twitter campaign #AskMmusi, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has only managed to garner 160 000 followers on the social media platform. 

Could Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters and a “revolutionary activist for radical change in Africa” be South Africa’s Taylor Swift? The Twitter handle @Julius_S_Malema has fewer than 800 000 followers, but it’s his real-life followers who count. Malema’s never-say-die attitude has ensured that he and his EFF mates have shaken up Parliament. He’s been like a pitbull on a tyre with the Pay Back The Money campaign. Will he be able to hang on long enough to see results? 

Come on Malema. We knew you were trouble. Just shake it off. And get the big boss to pay back the money.

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