Breaking Down T-Swift’s Breakup with Spotify

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And how it isolates fans in the process

As all of you have probably heard by now, earlier this month, pop star Taylor Swift removed her entire collection of songs from Spotify. While some fans immediately came to her defense, many were left feeling angered, disappointed, and worst of all, isolated.

Over the past few weeks, many people in the media have tried to come to a conclusion on what brought about this sudden change of heart towards Spotify. Allow us to try and break it down:

WAS IT THE MONEY?

This seems to be the most popular reasoning generated by the media and fans alike.

As many people are aware, Spotify is an ad-supported commercial music streaming service that offers fans the opportunity to listen to some of their favorite artists free of charge. While there is a premium option for listeners– ridding them of those pesky minute long ads and the ability to listen to music on the go(totally worth it by the way)– Spotify generates a majority of their revenue from their advertisements.

As Spotify details on their website they pay nearly 70% of their generated revenue to rights holders who than divide that percentage among song writers, producers, and artists. While this may seem like a large number, further research has shown that each play of a Spotify song generates .6 cents for the artist. Put simply, a song would need to be play 166 times for an artists to earn $1 in royalties. This number seems incredibly low, and a bit unfair, especially to those artist generating a few thousand views.

But an artist like Taylor Swift who was averaging millions of plays on her songs? According to information released by Spotify after this debacle began, T-Swift was set to make $6 million dollars in streaming royalties this year. $6 million! That’s more money that many of us can ever dream of getting our hands on.

$6 million is quite a hefty paycheck to turn down, so it makes us wonder, was it really just about the money? Or…

WAS IT ALL BUSINESS?

It is important to note throughout all this that Spotify isn’t the only music streaming service offered to fans. It is, however, the only one Taylor Swift removed her music from. Other streaming services like Beats Music, Rhapsody, and Rdio still feature Taylor Swift’s music in their catalogs. So, was this just a business play?

Taylor Swift addressed those sentiments in a recent interview with Time Magazine.

“With Beats Music and Rhapsody you have to pay for a premium package in order to access my albums. And that places a perception of value on what I’ve created. On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.”

It’s no secret that artist don’t make as much money on streaming services as they do on digital sales and iTunes, and as T-Swift points out, the packages offered on Beats Music and Rhapsody seemed to satisfy her more fiscally. So that explain everything right? Not so fast.

In a long winded, Facebook rant, outspoken British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg called bullshit. In his eight paragraph long rant, Bragg labels Swift’s recent move as nothing more than a “corporate powerplay”. Citing T-Swift’s recent move towards Google’s recently launched, and rival to Spotify, Music Key. Bragg writes:

“Google are going after Spotify and Taylor Swift has just chosen sides. That’s her prerogative as a savvy businesswoman – but please don’t try to sell this corporate power play to us as some sort of altruistic gesture in solidarity with struggling music makers.”

Taylor Swift and her people immediately denied these claims, but why wouldn’t they. What artist would come out and support a claim that they are the mastermind behind a massive corporate play? Something tells me fans wouldn’t really get behind that.

Bragg’s statements definitely have us thinking something bigger than money and business is going on here and made us wonder…

IS THIS THE START OF THINGS TO COME?

Taylor Swift’s recent move shocked a lot of people in the music industry and rightfully so. Thus far, this move has been unprecedented in the new world of music streaming. And unfortunately, it seems to be the start of things to come.

In a recent conversation to the The Wall Street Journal a top Sony Corp. executive stated that in light of Taylor Swift’s recent move the music label giant has considered whether or not to continue licensing songs for free, ad-supported music streaming services.

What would that mean for Spotify users? The possibility that artists such as Pitbull, One Direction, and Carrie Underwood would no longer be accessible in free music streaming services.

Is it possible that Taylor Swift’s actions may create a much larger reaction? That answer is looking more and more like a yes.

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?

Quite simple: isolated and losers.

I want to state on record that I have no issue with Taylor Swift’s music. As a matter of fact, you’ll catch me jamming out on the dance floor to “Shake It Off”, “22”, and plenty of her other songs. They’re catchy, fun, and easy to sing along too.

However, as a fan of music this decision really pissed me off. What furthered my frustration was the statements that Taylor Swift has made  in light of this decision.

It’s no secret that T-Swift isn’t a fan of music streaming. She’s made those feelings known in an Wall Street Journal Op-Ed earlier this year where she stated:

“Music is art, and art is important and rare.  Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for”

For the most part, I agree with this statement. Music is art, it is beautiful, and sometimes it is rare. Music gives us a voice when we can’t find our own, it supports us in times of struggle, and helps us express ourselves in happiness and grief.

The issue I have, is that Taylor Swift believes her music is rare and valuable. If we are going to make the comparison to ‘rare art’ The Beatles are the Mona Lisa while Taylor Swift is the $15 laser-printed painting found in the Home Goods aisle of Target. It’s great to look at, can go just about anywhere in the house, and it’s cheap. However, it’s mass produced, cheaply made, and was created for commercial benefit. There is no rarity there, there is no true value.

I have been a strong supporter of music streaming services like Spotify for a long time. The reason being is they offer me an affordable way to access a catalog of some of my favorite artist and offers me the opportunity to easily discover new ones. What Taylor Swift doesn’t seem to realize here, is that not all fans can afford to continually dish out the $20 for a new album, $30 t-shirt, and $115 for top level, last row seats at a concert.

Rather than allow music pirates to slowly destroy the music industry, services like Spotify offered fans a free or cheap ($9.99 a month aint bad) alternative to stream music from their favorite artists. Rather than have fans pick and choose what song they wanted to spend  $.99 on, they could now stream hundreds of them for free. The best part? Artists were still getting paid! Sure it wasn’t a lot of money, but it sure beat the whopping $0 they were getting from pirates.

I understand that Spotify isn’t perfect, it has significant flaws. The payouts are low and understandably perceived as unfair. However, it’s a lot better situation than where we were when sites like Hulkshare, MediaFire, and Pirate Bay were running rampant.

While I do understand Taylor Swift’s reasoning, whether business or money related, I do not support it. This decision doesn’t hurt Taylor Swift, Spotify, or the music industry, it hurts the very people who have stood by and supported her as she grew from a singer from Nashville into a massive global icon. The same people who purchased 1.287 million copies of your album the first week of sales, making it the first album to go platinum in 2014.

While I don’t believe this decision has been T-Swift’s exclusively (I’m sure managers, label executives, and agents played a major role) the way she has defended her actions has bothered me. Hopefully this situation comes to calm settlement, but if it’s anything like T-Swift’s other break-ups, it’s only going to get ugly. Hey, at least we might get a song out of it.

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