Taylor Swift removes her music from Spotify

Her new album ‘1989’ is on course to sell record numbers, but Swift has also decided to remove her entire catalogue from Spotify. Is this unfair to her fans? Or a stand for artistic integrity?

It’s a breakup worthy of one her famous love songs. Taylor Swift, one of the world’s most popular artists, has parted ways with Spotify, the world’s biggest music streaming service, by removing her entire catalogue from its site. In response, Spotify has begged Swift to return, and even made her a playlist to win her back.

Since Spotify launched in 2008, it has faced criticism over whether artists get their fair share from its business model. Spotify has a library of more than 20 million songs that people can listen to either for free, or by paying a monthly subscription fee of around £5 per month.

Swift, along with her label, have long argued that Spotify pays too little; artists earn on average less than one pence per play, (between $0.006 and $0.0084), whereas on sites such as iTunes, the sale of an individual download can earn as much as a pound, and even more for a CD sale.

Swift’s record label had already taken steps to limit the digital distribution of her music. Her new album ‘1989’ was kept off streaming websites after its release last week. Fans looking for a legal way to listen to it had to pay for the album either in CD format or pay to download it.

As a result, ‘1989’ is on course to sell more than 1.3m copies, which would make it the first album this year to sell more than a million.

Swift’s departure is a blow to Spotify as she is hugely popular among its listeners — 16m of Spotify’s 40m users have played her songs in the last 30 days. There is also the fear that other artists could follow Swift’s lead.

But the company has always defended its model, arguing that it pays out 70% of its overall revenue to record labels and publishers, who then decide how much to pay the artists. Over time, the more subscribers Spotify can attract to its service, the more money will end up with artists.

Shake it off

Some Swift fans are seeing red, and accuse her of being greedy by trying to maximise CD and digital sales. The streaming model is here to stay, and that’s a good thing, as it discourages piracy by encouraging fans to listen legally, while collecting some income on behalf of artists and the music industry. In addition it provides a platform for lesser known artists to reach the world. Besides, the record labels are the real villains, as they decide how much to pay their artists.

Others applaud Swift’s determination to use her power to stand up for artists whose work is being undervalued. There is the danger that we increasingly feel entitled to free music, yet the paltry sums of money that some artists receive from services like Spotify is a serious issue. Swift hasn’t just made a savvy business decision, but an important stand for artistic integrity.

You Decide

  1. Was Swift right to remove her music from Spotify?
  2. Do you think Swift will never, ever get back together with Spotify?

Activities

  1. Create your own infographic using the statistics in this story and in our expert links.
  2. Using the links in ‘Become an expert’ and your own research, work out how many Spotify streams an artist would need in order to earn the UK monthly minimum wage.

Some People Say...

“Music should not be free.’Taylor Swift”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why should I care about this?
Spotify and other streaming services make it easy to listen to new music, and relatively cheap. But if you’re a Spotify user and a Swift fan, you may now be slightly annoyed that for the price you pay, you won’t be able to hear some of your favourite tracks. If more artists follow Swift’s lead, streaming sites like Spotify could be seriously undermined.
Who else doesn’t like Spotify?
The Black Keys, Radiohead and Grizzly Bear have all spoken against Spotify in recent years, with many of them complaining that it simply doesn't pay them enough. The music of AC/DC and The Beatles is also not on the site. It is tempting to want to hear your favourite tunes cheaply, or to think that listening to music should be free, but it’s worth thinking about where your money ends up.

Word Watch

Taylor Swift
The 24-year-old singer-songwriter is a seven-time Grammy winner, and the youngest recipient in history of the music industry’s highest honour, the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. She is the best-selling digital music artist of all time.
Streaming
Listening to music over the internet without actually owning it.
Playlist
On Monday, Spotify issued a statement and two custom-designed playlists, including one that, when all the song’s titles are laid out back-to-back, say, ‘Hey Taylor, we wanted to play your amazing love songs and they’re not here right now. We want you back with us, and so do do do your fans.’
Free
Users either pay for the premium service to stream music without interruption or they listen for free but with adverts between songs.
Red
Swift’s 2012 album, ‘Red’ which sold 1.21 million copies in its first week in the US, was also not initially released on Spotify.
Piracy
Music piracy is the illegal copying and distributing of music for which the recording artist or record company did not give consent and receive no income.

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