Music and the Mind
Taylor Swift vs Spotify: The Battle is On
November 19, 2014
by William Szczepanek
Taylor Swift threw the first punch and it put Spotify against the ropes. Spotify’s CEO came forward with a number of weak jabs to Swift’s jaw defending the position of his company. She responded by just shaking it off. She then took a club to a luxury car in her new 360 degree video. Round one is over and while there is much debate, I think that the round goes to Swift.
We all know the music industry is changing rapidly and it has never served artists in a totally fair way, but in recent years only the most popular artists could make any money at recording and even those don’t feel that the remuneration is fair.
A while ago music was being pirated at an alarming rate and along came Spotify and Pandora and streaming became a method of paying artists for each song played. Spotify indicated that they paid artists 2 billion dollars in the past year. For all of Swift’s plays she received about $500,000. That’s not even enough to cover the marketing costs for a new album, much less the production costs and appearances.
Popular artists have used Spotify’s songs as promotional pieces so that they can make money doing concerts. Where does that leave lesser artists who can’t make enough money doing concerts to make a living, while the world listens to their songs for essentially no cost? That’s good for the listeners, but doesn’t do much for the ability of artists to produce good work of high quality, unless you have a lot of money to begin with or unless you know a recording company that will do it for free. But, remember you get what you pay for. Other successful artists say that music should be free. Obviously they don’t value the work of the rest of the music industry. Music should be free? Maybe those who think that shouldn’t charge people to go to their concerts.
That leaves Swift in a position of power that artists have not had in a long time. Pulling her songs off of Spotify may just be a mechanism for her and her Big Machine to move to a more lucrative position in the future, but it could also help artists, songwriters and creators of all genres of music get a better deal for their work, including those artists who after many years find their music being listened to for essentially no cost on You Tube.
Swift voiced her opinion in the Wall Street Journal. "It's my opinion that music should not be free," she wrote, "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 has accepted the challenge. Now I have another challenge for her which could go a long way toward proving her allegiance to her fans, the public and the country that makes her songs popular.
The Beatles, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson are just a few of the artists whose music changed the world. Isn’t that really the purpose of music, to impact people’ lives and to get them to think about the world. As Taylor heads into her mid-twenties, she will not as easily be able to continue with her young love lyrics that attract the teenyboppers of today. Maybe “Shake It Off” is the beginning of her way of dealing with more relevant topics. With the power she has I hope she has the guts to be more vocal about the problems of the world and create an atmosphere where a musicians lyrics play a role in the shaping of our country, like they once did.
Swift is known as a self-proclaimed “serial dater”, who has been able to chop her not-so-nice male adversaries into little pieces. Many have learned not to be rude to Taylor Swift. Spotify and their CEO need to be careful what they say or they may just be the subject of her next album.
"Music affects the mind and the mind affects our music. "