Heads up, plebs: If you want to listen to Taylor Swift, you gotta pay up. The very rich, guitar-playing porcelain doll has taken a silent stand against dwindling music sales and pulled her catalog of songs from Spotify.
We love Taylor Swift, and our more than 40 million users love her even more – nearly 16 million of them have played her songs in the last 30 days, and she's on over 19 million playlists.
We hope she'll 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.
PS – Taylor, we were both young when we first saw you, but now there's more than 40 million of us who want you to stay, stay, stay. It's a love story, baby, just say, Yes.
Now, Taylor has always played it pretty strategic when it comes to the streaming rights for her music: Her last album, Red, wasn't finally uploaded to Spotify until months after its release. And it's not hard to understand why, either. Taylor Swift, love her or leave her, is among the number of artists you can count on your hands that can reliably sell albums and lots of them.
Sales projections for her latest album, 1989, are expected to hit more than a million in its first week, which is incredible in a few ways. First, few artists, good times or bad, have pulled in sales numbers like that; according to Billboard, 1989 will only be the 19th album to have sold at least a million copies in a single week. (This will be Swift's third album in a row to debut to more than a million in sales—a record.)
1989 will also instantly become 2014's second-biggest selling album after just one week on sale. Currently, the top two sellers this year are the Frozen soundtrack (3.2 million) and Beyonce's self-titled album (787,000). They are followed by Lorde's Pure Heroine (767,000) and Coldplay's Ghost Stories (737,000). The latter is 2014's biggest-selling album released this year, as Frozen, Beyonce and Pure Heroine came out in 2013.
That's grim. Ostensibly, Swift's move to pull her songs from Spotify is her attempt to do a few things: Boost the sales of her catalog of albums by forcing fans to buy her music and head off free streaming services (from which artists earn a notably low fee) from cannibalizing those album sales. And Swift is hardly the first artist to play hardball with Spotify: Adele, Beyoncé, and Coldplay have also withheld their songs from the service.
And this is not the first time Swift has been critical of the music industry and its state of captivity on the internet—she penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journalearlier this year that puts her impasse with Spotify into greater context:
There are many (many) people who predict the downfall of music sales and the irrelevancy of the album as an economic entity. I am not one of them. In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.
"My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet…is that they all realize their worth and ask for it," Swift wrote.
But oh man, is it hard to accept Taylor Swift as a martyr for the music industry, because this all comes off as a power play as opposed to a call to arms for her fellow beleaguered artists: Last week, Vulture published "How Much is Taylor Swift Worth?" and surprise, surprise, with an estimated net worth of $195.8 million, she's rich as fuck.
Maybe her steamrolling of Spotify will lead to a larger cut of the profits for artists, it will undoubtably lead to more money for Swift, but this maneuvering can't shake off the position of privilege from which it's made. It's easy for Taylor Swift to not have her music on Spotify. She can afford it.
[Image via Getty]