Where It All Began
When Taylor Swift announced in 2014 that she was pulling all of her music from streaming services I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it made sense. Streaming revenues in and of themselves in 2014 were not great and by making a big public spectacle out of her departure from the likes of Spotify she was sure to boost album sales through more traditional outlets.
What struck me as odd though is that her music remained on Youtube, the largest streaming music service in the world. Youtube’s streaming royalties are far worse than Spotify’s as well. This alone should have clued everyone in that the very public departure from Spotify wasn’t much more than a marketing ploy. And it worked too. Swift was the highest earning artist in 2015.
I should also note that the reason Taylor Swift’s share of streaming revenue is so bad is because of her record deal. She signed that deal and like most artists on record labels, I assume the deal sucks. The label does almost no work to create the streaming revenue and takes most of the profit. So why would her label go along with ditching Spotify if they stood to make tons of money? Again, it comes back to marketing. They knew that Swift’s pre-teen audience would still go buy the album and they manufactured a public feud with Spotify to create buzz around the album 1989.
Streaming Revenue in 2017
Fastforward to 2016 and I wondered why they hadn’t changed course and released 1989 to streaming services. The market had shifted significantly in the 2 years since it was released and surely everyone who was going to purchase it had already done so. But still they held back without explanation.
Then the revenue numbers for the music industry for all of 2016 came in and for the first time ever, streaming revenue made up the majority of all music revenue. That is an impressive paradigm shift from just a couple years earlier. It is the same type of seismic shift that happened when music listeners switched from buying CDs to downloading MP3s.
From the very beginning, the decision to hold her album back from Spotify felt like a backward decision from an artist and label that were looking at the future of the industry and stubbornly refused to accept reality. But that was then and this is now.
Here in 2017, two and a half years after release, they finally bowed to changing market conditions and put 1989 on Spotify and other streaming services. Will her next album be kept off of streaming platforms? Doubtful. The time for principled stands against streaming (read: marketing ploys) is over. Streaming is here to stay and Spotify is the king of the hill.
In the previous years when the album was not available for streaming, many independent artists were able to earn thousands of dollars by recording cover songs of Taylor Swift’s music. Swift might not have been interested in earning streaming royalties but that doesn’t mean other artists couldn’t profit from her songs.
My Thoughts on Taylor Swift’s Album 1989
One final thought. I never listened to 1989 until last week when it was finally available to stream. First off, I realize that I am not the target audience for this kind of music. I’m not a 15 year old girl and perhaps that has affected my opinion in a negative way.
Overall I found the album to be disappointing. The lyrics were just empty pop music lyrics and for some reason I had expected a bit more from Taylor Swift. I should give some credit that lyrically it isn’t the same low brow sex filled lyrics of the likes of Katy Perry or Meghan Trainor. But to me it was all very uninspired and uninteresting. What do I know though? Millions of teenage girls can’t be wrong, right?