Think what you might about her music but Taylor Swift is helping musicians get paid. Her actions and voice have authority.
As she brushes up against some big corporations and big names in music and entertainment, Taylor Swift continues to work hard to protect not only her brand and name but for artists’ rights in sometimes unexpected ways.
Fighting a changing musical landscape that in part she played a role in helping build, Taylor Swift has shown no fear in taking on some of the world’s biggest streaming services, i.e. Spotify, and at the end of the day, it’s an overall positive thing for the music industry as a whole.
Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” Is An Example Of Anticipation Leading To Big Sales In Music
“Reputation” was the biggest-selling album of 2017. In its first week alone, “Reputation” sold 1.22 million copies in the United States and, factoring international sales, topped out at over 2 million copies.
This is immensely impressive in the current era where downloads and streaming are so the norm.
Though “Reputation” is obviously now streaming online and hit the streaming services like Spotify roughly a month after its physical release, this shows something. What its first-week sales prove is that when you build anticipation effectively as a musical artist, and when you demonstrate the value of your music as an artist, there are many people still willing to pay for it.
Taylor Swift v. Spotify & Streaming Services
In recent years, Taylor Swift has notoriously taken a stand against streaming services which, as most of us know, provide fairly low compensation to artists who provide their content for free supporting Spotify revenues.
For less popular artists, they are largely at the mercy of streaming services and what they are willing to provide in the form of compensation. To get exposure, a musical artist is forced to play the game even when they don’t want to.
With Taylor Swift, someone who has built an international brand over the past two decades, she already has the exposure.
By withholding her content from streaming services like Spotify and choosing to release music the way she wants to release it, she’s maximized her income as a musician and proved that streaming may not be the be-all, end-all for musicians looking to get paid.
Much like Taylor Swift, every artist in the music industry should be looking at how to maximize their income.
Throughout the last two decades, many artists have refused to release their music according to the schedules of streaming services and online song marketplaces such as iTunes.
Artists like The Beatles, for example, refused to allow iTunes the right to sell their music and even during this withholding, they were still one of the best-selling artists in the world. In 2010, when the Beatles did join iTunes, they and their rights holders made a killing financially off the anticipation of their content hitting the service.
Does It Make Sense To Withhold Your Music Off Spotify & Similar Streaming Services?
There are those who argue that if an artist like Taylor Swift doesn’t make her music available online, it will only end up pirated.
Even so, her sales numbers don’t necessarily support this argument. Even with her material being pirated as it presumably was and is, Taylor Swift is still raking in more money in non-streaming sales than she would if she let her album stream by comparison.
According to some estimates, to make the money that Taylor Swift makes off of only one CD sale, she would have to acquire approximately 133 hours of listening through streaming.
In terms of getting paid and with an artist as popular as Swift, there’s no questioning what anyone would do.
This goes back to maximizing one’s income and what might be the right choice for Taylor Swift is not necessarily the right choice for every musician.
Does it make sense for an unknown musician self-releasing an album or for a small indie record label putting out an album to not put that music on Spotify, YouTube, social media, and to get it out to listeners for free?
Probably not. For most, it’s worth the exposure and reach to release music for free than withhold it for personal preference.
Taylor Swift Makes Her Own Rules – That’s A Positive Thing For Music
Any time someone goes against the grain and argues for change in favor of the artist, that’s a positive for art.
For anyone who criticizes Taylor Swift or others for withholding access to their content from Spotify or other corporations need be reminded that music is a business.
Instead of executives at Spotify getting rich off her, Taylor Swift takes things into her own hands and, financially speaking, she’s making the right move to maximize what she takes home from an album or single release.
For developing artists, the thing to take away from Taylor Swift is that this isn’t about ‘playing the game’ or ‘not playing the game’. It’s about making the most of the opportunity to make money. As a developing artist, yes, you may need to get on these streaming services because the exposure is there. That said, if you can find creative ways to make income outside of streaming, challenge yourself. Remember, these are all tools and there are no established systems so play your hand the way you want to play and make the most of what’s there.
A decade from now, music will look entirely different from where it is today and just like it is different today from where it was a decade ago. No artist needs to play by the rules of any corporation.
Do what you feel is right for you and your music.