Op-Ed: Taylor Swift’s Spotify catalogue removal could influence other artists

By Rachel A.G. Gilman

Via Billboard

On Nov. 6, country-turned-pop singer Taylor Swift made the decision to remove all of her music from the streaming website, Spotify. Swift told Yahoo that she felt Spotify was an “experiment,” one she was not interested in contributing her work to without having fair compensation.

She compared her music to artwork, saying, “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 of it, and it’s theirs now and they don’t have to pay for it.”

However, is there a great marketing plan behind Swift’s decision? Her album, “1989,” was the only to go platinum this year, along with the “Frozen” soundtrack, a fete that U2 and Beyoncé have yet to figure out. This could be because Swift had a really great pop album —personally, I’m not certain this was the case — or it could be because majority of Swift’s fan base is not the type to head on over to illegal streaming sites.

Shockingly, their parents don’t mind heading to Target and picking up a hard copy of “1989.” Taking her music off of Spotify only forced extremely curious people, like myself, to cough up $13.00, despite their better judgment, to check out the tracks. The album sales, therefore, were a little unrealistically inflated.

If a lesser-known pop artist had removed all of their work from being streamed freely online, I’m not sure we’d be giving it this much buzz. Taylor Swift is getting away with it, perhaps even coming off a little bit richer, because of the mega fan base and overall popularity she’s built for herself.

But what if this action becomes the norm?

Already, country crooner Jason Aldean followed in Swift’s footsteps and pulled his new album from Spotify. It raises the question of whether this new trend of releasing music on monthly subscription websites will be able to continue riding the wave of success it is on now, if there aren’t enough artists to support it with material.

It seems that artists don’t want to support streaming websites because they aren’t being rightfully compensated, a mathematical statistic that can’t possibly work out when you think about it. To use Spotify, users only pay between $5 and $10 for unlimited content streaming, same goes for other streaming services like Pandora and Beats Music. A streaming website can pay a small price tag for a hit song, but then have it played millions of times (a good example of this is Jon Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer”: it only cost Pandora $110.42, but it’s been streamed over 6 million times).

The streaming industry, as of now, is projected to increase by 238% over the next five years, with digital download sales decreasing by almost 30% in the same time period. But if more artists catch onto this loss of cash flow, it’s hard to think it’ll keep its popularity with musicians.

As of now, online streaming is still very much a thing, regardless of whether or not Taylor Swift has shaken it off, though it remains significantly more friendly to listeners than to artists. If something doesn’t shift to lessen this discrepancy, then chances are some more of your favorite tunes will be pulling out, too.

Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com

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