Taylor Swift: Singer, songwriter, actress, model… warrior?
Her latest endeavors have many pegging her to be the latter as she wages a war against online music streaming service Spotify. She’s not the first artist to do so; Radiohead’s Thom Yorke voiced his opinion on the service over a year ago.
Swift, however, has drawn considerable attention lately by removing her entire catalog off the site, claiming it to be a thorn in the side of artists trying to make a living. Let’s wind back the clock in an attempt to understand the battle between Spotify and the artists that fail to love them.
Human beings have enjoyed music since our first ancestors hit a rock against their cave wall and figured out they liked the sound it made. It can be enjoyed alone while relaxing, communally with others during some sort of ritual or ceremony, and it livens up parties.
You hear it at the ball game and it’s blaring from the garage down the street; music is a powerful binding agent that has the ability to bring us together in even the worst of times. Lately, however, it has demonstrated the ability to tear us apart.
As technology continues on its rapidly trajectory forward, the way music is delivered to us has changed drastically. In the good old days, families would gather around the radio. Then LPs came along and everyone had a record collection. 8-tracks made a brief appearance, then cassette tapes, which gave way to the much more efficient compact disc and finally the birth of streaming music online.
Spotify is an evolved version of many streaming services that came before it. Users can listen to music whenever, and wherever, they want – for free. That means instead of paying for a hard copy (does anyone do that anymore – vinyl devotees, perhaps?) of Lorde’s Pure Heroine you can just download Spotify on your phone and listen for free.
Therein lies the problem; Swift feels she should be fairly compensated for her work. And while Spotify does generate revenue for participating artists – CEO Daniel Ek claims roughly 70% of money made is given back to artists, for a total around $2 billion – Swift and her supporters feel it isn’t enough.
Spotify claims it is progressive and fair because it delivers music to the fans and pays the artists, driving people away from Internet piracy. Its detractors state the compensation isn’t fair and they don’t need a middleman to deliver their art to the masses. So what’s a fan to do – pay for the album, or listen for free? The advantages to paying are clear – you can listen anywhere you want, without commercial interruption, and you know you’re supporting the artists you love.
On the other hand, money is hard to come by, and free is free. And if you can listen to your favorite band for free and know they’re still being paid for it, why not? At this point, artists opposed to Spotify seem to be in the minority. Artists like Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Ray and alt-J have embraced Spotify and used it to promote their music.
The multi-millionaires opposing it claim it is bad for new artists trying to make a living. In the meantime, those up-and-comers are thrilled to have people listen to their music regardless of the medium. This appears to be a battle that will wage on for some time, and while the listeners, with multiple ways to enjoy music, are clear winners, it remains to be seen whether artists –especially emerging ones – will benefit in the long run.
Post by Jack Stokes. Jack Stokes loves soft pretzels and the tranquility of spinning vinyl. He writes for Zu Audio, manufacturers of high-end audiophile equipment.