Taking Note: Taylor Swift and Spotify

Taking Note: Taylor Swift and Spotify

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We like to stay up-to-date on music industry news. It would be foolish not to. We get daily reports from a number of websites and news conglomerates, and there are certain terms that we track. This can mean that when something big happens, we hear a lot about it in a very short window of time.

Yesterday, we heard a lot.

What Happened?

Simply put, an artist chose to remove her back catalog from a streaming service.

It probably happens quite often, although not nearly as often as artists announce that their music is now available on streaming services. But, judging by the flood of news bulletins in our inbox and trending topics on social media and legit news sources, yesterday’s announcement was a little different and a big, BIG deal. So, what is the difference?

Well, the artist in question is Taylor Swift.  And the streaming service? Spotify.

That’s right. Spotify has neither Taylor’s newest album, which debuted last week and was never offered on the streaming service, nor any of her previous albums available for its users.

Whether or not you personally are a fan of her music, it’s hard to deny the enormous success and even larger fan base that Taylor has. If those fans can’t get Taylor’s music on Spotify, they might start looking somewhere else for Taylor’s music… which could be cause for alarm for Spotify and could explain their efforts to bring her back.

There’s abundant speculation about why Taylor Swift has removed her back catalog, including an alleged effort to boost her label’s sales figures before the label makes itself available for purchase. We don’t want to speak for the songstress, though, so we’ll allow her words from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal to speak on her behalf:

“Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically… Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

Taylor, we couldn’t agree more.

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I don’t think it’s that easy nowadays.

I’m a music composer and I also consider myself to be a borderline obsessive fan of certain bands… I still buy CDs and Vinyl, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to any of their websites. And if I’m not going to their websites, then NO ONE is going to my website…

Don’t get me wrong, I keep my website up to date with streaming only music, and no full albums. But no one cares. Even if my mailing list was a million people strong, no one would really care. They want your music on the same service as the rest of the music the listen to. They don’t want to have to switch off. I really like the band Tool, but guess what, they’re not on Spotify, so I rarely listen to them unless I’m at home on my stereo and decide to put in a CD or put on one of their vinyl records. I do most of my music listening on Spotify though because I listen to my music on my phone most of the time, and the majority of music is available through that one app icon I have to touch. So pulling my music from Spotify would create a complication for people that might actually decide to give my music a listen.

It’s very complicated, and I don’t know that there really is an answer. Luckily for me, my career focus isn’t on being a rock star, it’s on creating music for films, so I don’t have to really play the album sales game that much. But I think we’re past the breaking point of worrying about people listening for free. No one considers music something they should have to pay for.

David, thank you for your thought-out and insightful comment. We understand needing a presence where fans are; we really do. But we also know that music has been devalued, and we agree that most people don’t want to pay for music. We want to help change that, and we believe part of that change comes from not giving it away.

Yea it’s definitely a difficult thing to figure out. Whoever does figure it out, I’ll buy a beer haha. But yea the devaluation of music in the eyes of listeners is scary and real.

“But I think we’re past the breaking point of worrying about people listening for free. No one considers music something they should have to pay for.”

Well, the fact is, music listeners adapt to whatever the market tells them is happening and if that means we revert back to a sane, sensible method of paying artists what they are worth to create the music that people want to continue listening to, then listeners will pony up.

Right now, we’re in a no win spiral. If the business model stays the same as it is now with streaming services and a few big labels continuing to feast off the backs of the unpaid musicians, the dinner will soon be over and we’ll all go hungry. Something has to give, and the sooner we all realize that, the better.

Personally, I think streaming is great––but we all have to be willing to pay a fair amount for it, and that means more than we are currently paying.

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