For our Hate It or Love It series we take a current hot topic in music news that polarizes reasonable minds in the music and entertainment world, and we have one of our writers advocate for one side of the argument and have another one of our writers advocate for the other side (trying our best to always stay fair and balanced). One of the biggest topics in music news this past month is Taylor Swift’s decision to pull her music off the popular streaming service Spotify. While Swift issued an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal stating “Music is art” that should be paid for, Spotify’s CEO agreed, but noted that they have paid artists over $2 billion dollars in royalties.
Taylor Swift was Right to Give Spotify the Boot
By Hope Gartner
Taylor Swift is no stranger to success. The highly anticipated album, 1989, made roughly 1.2 million in its first week, according to Soundscan. This makes Taylor the first artist in history to have three consecutive million dollar opening weeks. Taylor has said that she has never felt more confident about an album than 1989. This self assurance and passion led her to the decision to pull her entire catalog of music from Spotify, claiming she, “was hoping and praying that people still perceived there to be a value to someone’s musical creation.” She also writes of her beliefs on this in her editorial for the Wall Street Journal identifying herself as, “one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying..it’s just coming alive.” With such tremendous success, one may ask if Taylor’s decision to give Spotify the boot was the right one to make? Though there are many contradicting beliefs on this, I believe it was.
Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Taylor’s record label, Big Machine Records, backs Taylor on this decision 100 percent. In a November interview with Sixx Sense With Nikki Sixx, he claims the reason behind this was because they, “never wanted to embarrass a fan. If this fan went and purchased the record, CD, iTunes, wherever, and then their friends go, ‘Why did you pay for it? It’s free on Spotify.’ We’re being completely disrespectful to that superfan who wants to invest.” Artists need to earn a living for what they do. There’s panic in the music industry because opinions on this differ so greatly. The success of an artist, should not be the deciding factor of how much money people think they should make. This brings up many questions. What makes a person successful? What is success? By what means is someone allowed to decide when an artist has made enough money? An endless circle of questions can be brought up.
Spotify is desperately trying to get Taylor Swift back on board stating, “We love Taylor Swift, and our more than 40 million users love her even more….We hope she’ll change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone.” A new music economy in the eyes of Spotify, that is. To fully understand Taylor’s decision we must look into our own lives as examples. Would we enjoy and support working with no pay? And if we were as successful as Taylor Swift, would we be okay with letting others decide the worth of the art that we worked hard making? With such a strong, important figure in the music industry taking a stand for music, it shouldn’t be long before other artists join the cause.
Taylor Swift was Wrong to Give Spotify the Boot
By Dan Garcia
Taylor, I’m going to let you finish but Spotify is one of the best services for artists and fans of all time. It is worth noting right away that Taylor Swift is certainly free and able to pull her music off Spotify (as anyone should and does have the right to do). In this great country we have the freedom of contact, and if she doesn’t think that she is getting the market value for her music, then she certainly should have pulled her music. However, whether she should be able to pull her music and whether she is right (especially in the comments she made) are two entirely different topics. It was one thing to pull her music, but she was flat out wrong in multiple ways with her reasoning.
“It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” – Taylor Swift
Should music be free? That question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, so to say that it should’t be free is completely off. In many ways, music should be free. What about the radio? If listeners had to pay for the radio (as opposed to station’s drawing ad revenue), radio would not exist. Essentially Spotify is radio (or the radio of the internet) in many ways, which is paralleled by its payment structure. Through selling ads, Spotify is able to pay the artists (Taylor Swift included) over $2 billion dollars in royalties since the company’s inception. Spotify picks up the tab for fans, so that people can enjoy the art of music.
Taylor also fails to see the good in giving music for free, from a business end and an exposure standpoint. Rappers (upcoming and established alike) constantly give out free mixtapes to promote their brand. Through giving back to the fans (and without getting a cut of ad revenue), rappers are able to build their fan bases. This way, when Big Sean drops his newest album, you go out and show your support by buying a copy (even if you can just stream it online for free). Or the next time Big K.R.I.T. is in city, you go to your local venue to see him perform all your favorite songs live (whether you purchased them, downloaded them off a free mixtape, or even downloaded the tracks illegally), as I’m sure Dave Grohl would agree.
Even if you strongly think that music should not be free, Taylor’s music certainly was not free. According to Spotify, they were on track to pay Taylor Swift over $6 million dollars a year in royalties, and had already paid her millions before she withdrew her music. While it may have led to less people purchasing her newest album 1989 (which sold over 1.2 million copies in its first week), it is hard to imagine that enough people would have opted out of buying her album (because of its unavailability on Spotify) that it would account for the millions in royalties that she would have received. Taylor’s fan base is huge, and they will support her album even if she gave a free link to download 1989 on her Twitter. Also, do not forget about the artists who make money due to their songs being streamed, when people otherwise would likely not go out an purchase their music, who therefore benefit significantly from Spotify.
Taylor is right, music is an art that has value and the people who make such pieces of art should get their compensation. This is why I like museums, they have amazing pieces of artwork for the benefit of the public. The artists get paid handsomely for their artworks (whether by the museum or by a third-party), except for the artists who donate the pieces personally, and the public gets to enjoy the art at little or no cost. Everyone wins with this model, and this model is almost identical to the business model of Spotify. Artists are getting their money, despite what Taylor may lead people to believe, and Spotify never said that music should be free at the expense of artists. I’m not even saying Taylor shouldn’t complain because she is rich enough, what I am saying is that Spotify is great for both artists and fans and that Ms. Swift should not be so negative about sharing art with the masses in new-age ways.