Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Taylor Swift vs. Spotify: An Alternative Angle

So Taylor Swift has decided to remove her entire discography from Spotify. I realise that most of you were already aware of this - it did happen more than a week ago - but I just wanted to include a recap for my readers in news-proof domes.

Reactions to this news can, by and large, be sorted into two piles:

  1. "Good for her! She's standing up for musicians and their right to be remunerated for what they create."
  2. "It's a money thing. Clearly she's just trying to force everyone to buy her albums instead of streaming them."

Depending on what you think of Ms Swift, this is either a righteous crusade to restore music's status as 'something worth paying for'...or a money-grabbing act of greed from someone who has already sold millions upon millions of records.

I, however, would like to propose a third angle. While there can be little doubt that this Spotify-shunning will have a pretty positive effect on Taylor's album sales, I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt and suggest that it's not about the money at all.

It's about the music. Or, more specifically, the albums.

Here is Taylor Swift's reasoning for the Spotify cull, as reported by TechCrunch:
"A lot of people were suggesting to me that I try putting new music on Spotify with Shake It Off, and so I was open-minded about it. I thought, 'I will try this; I’ll see how it feels.' 
"It didn’t feel right to me. I felt like I was saying to my fans, 'If you...create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it’s theirs now and they don’t have to pay for it.' 
"I didn’t like the perception that it was putting forth. And so I decided to change the way I was doing things."
Now, I'd like to draw your attention to that bit about the painting in the museum. Most people have taken it as a sign of Taylor's commitment to the 'music-makers deserve to be paid' school of thought, but I think it says more about her commitment to the album as a format. She wants people to buy the album and listen to it in full, experiencing the whole work instead of listening to Shake It Off a thousand times without a thought for the larger context from whence it was torn.

There's a comment on that TechCrunch article that rather perturbs me:

"Recordings are business cards," says Felix Gil. Now, I've heard a lot of talk about the relationship between albums and live shows - the most common aphorism goes something like this:

"It used to be that you'd go on tour to promote your album. Nowadays, you make an album to promote your tour!"

I could write a whole other blog post about whether or not that's true, but even if concerts do now hold more money-making potential than albums, I'd still argue that albums are worthwhile works in their own right.

And I'm reasonably certain that, notwithstanding all the money she's poised to make, Taylor Swift feels that way too; 1989 certainly feels like it was conceived as a cohesive, eighties-themed* set rather than just a playlist of her next 13 hits, and I've often thought that Spotify was kind of detrimental to the album format. People listen to the '10 Most Popular' tracks instead of checking out the actual albums, know what? Liam from the 1p Album Club covered this ground perfectly well in the guest blog that he wrote for me last year, so I'd encourage you to click on over to that and let him finish my point for me. In the meantime, here's another cracker from 1989:

*I'll be talking about eighties-themed albums at length in Friday's blog, so be sure to come back for that.

No comments:

Post a Comment