Taylor Swift has already gone on record about her opinion of streaming music. Last week she pulled all her music from Spotify. Her earlier op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal indicated that she did not feel her “worth” was met by the direction the music industry is heading. She lumped legal and supported streaming services like Spotify in with illegal means.
“Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently,” Swift wrote.
Yahoo! Music asked Swift about her decision to not allow Spotify to carry her latest album.
"If I had streamed the new album, it's impossible to try to speculate what would have happened. But all I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music."
Spotify explained their model, and their hope for Swift’s return this way:
"We hope [Swift will] change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone. We believe fans should be able to listen to music wherever and whenever they want, and that artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy. That’s why we pay nearly 70% of our revenue back to the music community."
But Swift does not seem to acknowledge Spotify’s pay model. File sharing and piracy rob artists entirely. Spotify pays artists. It may not pay what they want yet, but it is based on a growth model. On the one hand, Swift seems to understand this. She called it “a grand experiment.” But then she reverts to her argument that it is the same as piracy.
"And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free. I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this summer that basically portrayed my views on this. I try to stay really open-minded about things, because I do think it's important to be a part of progress. But I think it’s really still up for debate whether this is actual progress, or whether this is taking the word ‘music' out of the music industry."
The “progress” that Swift seems to afraid of is the same progress that allows affordable downloads rather than paying $20+ for CDs in the mall. It is the same progress that allows an independent band to distribute their music through the same channels that major label acts do.
"Also, a lot of people were suggesting to me that I try putting new music on Spotify with "Shake It Off," and so I was open-minded about it. I thought, ‘I will try this; I'll see how it feels.' It didn't feel right to me. I felt like I was saying to my fans, ‘If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it's theirs now and they don't have to pay for it.' I didn't like the perception that it was putting forth. And so I decided to change the way I was doing things.”
Swift is a relative latecomer in an industry that was already choking on its own mistakes before she got there. The romantic notion that she can record an album and get paid outrageous sums for it may still hold for her as long as she plays a distribution shell game with her releases. But her plan is short-sighted.
Dave Grohl is worth $260 million. And Dave Grohl got there by encouraging downloads, even piracy, of his music. By writing songs that last. And by being smart in his choices of projects. And Dave Grohl’s band just popped a new track on Spotify today.