Apple Supposedly Pays Outsourced Creatives Zero Money… At Least They Get AirPods3 min read

Image via Hadrian /

Apple recently faced ire for not offering money to winning smartphone photographers at its ‘#ShotOniPhone’ competition. Following criticism, the tech giant later added monetary prizes as incentives for users to take up the challenge.

In a similar vein, creatives have claimed that the company hasn’t been paying them money for performing or conducting sessions in its physical stores.

As reported by San Francisco media company KQED, artists outsourced by Apple for its ‘Today at Apple’ program have reportedly been paid with gadgets… and zero money.

The publication came to know about the issue after a Black History Month installment at San Francisco’s Union Square.

It was part of the ‘Today at Apple’ project, an itinerary of free sessions held in Apple Stores for members of the public that involve creative mentors offering tutorials and artistes performing in a dedicated space. Recently, the retailer unveiled over 50 free panels and workshops relating to art, photography, and design around the world.

According to KQED, 11 creatives—including playwright Ayodele Nzinga—agreed that they had not been given monetary compensation in exchange for their time and services. Instead, they were offered a choice of AirPods, an Apple Watch Series 3, or an Apple TV.

While some interviewed were taken aback about being paid with products, several of them were unwilling to be named for fear of tainting their business relationships with Apple.

The publication also cited Victor Valle, founder of music agency Counter Culture Group, who manages two performers that had dedicated their time at the Apple Store in Union Square back in 2017. They were paid in Apple Watches.

Valle noted the appeal of working with Apple for exposure, but turned down the company’s subsequent requests to book his talents, who would have spent their own time and money trying to impress a passive audience that was present simply to buy iPhones.

“This may feel like it’s going to be the break for you, like… ‘We’re doing something with Apple!’” he remarked, but added that there would be “no return” for talents who have to “get a band together, pay [their] members, pay… [to] park in the area.”

‘Today at Apple’ is Apple’s move to hoist itself as a community-first company at nearly zero cost, KQED said, but it has so much potential to benefit participating artists, too. As it stands, the program does not have dedicated social media accounts to promote its guests.

Nzinga described her experience at ‘Today at Apple’ as “hella fun,” but lamented that Apple had not linked to her project on its website. It also did not hire a photographer to capture the event’s best moments, which could have added more value to her time there.

“[T]hey weren’t maximizing the moment as much as they could because they’re a huge tech company…” she spoke of the world’s largest company by market value. “Of course, we have to pay rent like other people.”

Artist-turned-creator Vanessa Nguyen, who goes by the moniker Besame, expressed that she was “grateful” for the opportunity to work with Apple, but “knowing they’re a giant company that’s not going bankrupt, it’s kind of weird that they can’t compensate talent.”

She elaborated that she had asked Apple’s representatives about monetary payments, but they told her that they were only able to “give product out.” Nguyen’s collective chose to go home with Apple TVs, while she picked an iPad to be shared with someone else.

The publication said Apple repeatedly declined its requests for comment.

[via KQED, cover image via Hadrian /]