Swift vs. Spotify, An Opinion Article

Cortlyn and I are both music lovers. It was the summer of 2013 that we teamed up to create the concept of Music Unlabeled – a music news and review blog that would cover all genres and music. We launched it in February of this year, and have gone over all sorts of music. Most of which would not be available to us without Spotify.

Spotify, for those of you who don’t know, is a music listening platform. You sign up, free of charge, and get to listen to a wide variety of artists. Most of the time, you get to listen to their whole discography, as long as you have an internet connection.  By paying a price for premium, you get to listen to whatever you want offline and on your mobile device, commercial free.

Spotify and other free music listening platforms have gotten a lot of flack over the years, all for not paying artists enough. Spotify puts nearly 70% of their proceeds towards paying artists, with the promise of being able to pay more to artists with a rise in people that subscribe to premium. The whole basis to Spotify is that by giving listeners a way to listen to their favorite artists for mostly free, it will cut down on piracy and still give artists a sense of income.

A lot of artists don’t sign with Spotify, for the reason that they don’t get paid as much as they would like. This can work out one of two ways: a person goes to piracy, or they go out and buy the album. Recently, Taylor Swift was one of the more popular artists to pull their whole discography from Spotify.

“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,” Swift said. “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. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

Of course, the variety of responses from her pulling her discography from Spotify has been enormous. Myself and others are critical of this move. Maybe I wouldn’t be so critical of it if she hadn’t announced a World Tour in the same week as pulling her catalog from Spotify, or maybe I wouldn’t be so critical if in June 2014 her earnings were estimated to be about $64,000,000. But the overall response that I’ve seen hasn’t been critical or even cruel – it’s been sadness from the fans who no longer have an easy way to listen to their favorite artist, and who may or may not have the money to buy all of Taylor’s albums. A lot of those fans who have no other way of getting those albums will probably resort to piracy, or they’ll just stick to hoping that the young singer’s songs come on the radio.

It’s not like Taylor is a struggling artist. It’s not like she’s having a hard time making ends meet, or she’s new to the scene and just barely making enough to get buy. She has a billion dollar empire and is making millions every year – without releasing new songs, an album, and going on a world tour (something she does every few years).

But removing her discography has seemed to work for her, as her album was the first album to go platinum in all of 2014. But it’s hard to say whether this would have happened anyway, as she is one of the most popular artists around.

Other artists, like Bono, have come out in support of Spotify:

“I think artists should be paid way more than they are,” Bono said. “But the greatest way you serve your songs is to get them heard.”

In the U2 frontman’s opinion, services like Spotify are most beneficial to artists starting out. “I’m already paid too much,” Bono said. “I’m a spoiled rock star. I’m the wrong spokesperson for this, but I have to tell you: if I were starting a band now, aged 17 or 18, I would be very excited…. Though it is clear that there are some traumas as we move from physical to digital and 20th century to 21st century, and the people paying the highest price for those traumas are songwriters rather than performers, I still think forming a band is so exciting.”

Even though Bono really isn’t joking when he says that he’s a spoiled rock star – his net worth being considerably higher than Taylor Swift’s – he does have a point. Spotify is a great tool, and while it might need some tweaks, it’s not all bad. And he drives the point back home that it’s not all about the money, but just being noticed and knowing that your songs are being enjoyed by people all over the world.

I cannot deny that Swift does have a right to pull her discography from Spotify – it’s her prerogative. If it gives her a sense of peace then so be it. But in my opinion, the value of music goes far beyond an actual price tag. It’s worth so much more than that. The true reward in it is knowing that so many people relate to it and enjoy it, in a way that words just can’t describe.

Without Spotify, Music Unlabeled wouldn’t be possible. Spotify gives us access to many different artists from all different backgrounds, and gets us interested in genres that we might not have otherwise found. Sure there’s YouTube and the radio, but both aren’t as diverse and easy-access as Spotify is. And I find it very hard to criticize a system that gives so many such a wonderful and similar opportunity.

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