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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Taylor Swift knew Spotify was trouble, not a love story

    This week, I’m feeling a little bit like the cake in Taylor Swift’s music video for her new song, “Blank Space.”

    She didn’t stab me or anything, but did she remove her music off Spotify, and I am way too lazy to pirate it.

    For those who grew up with LimeWire, iTunes, Grooveshark, SoundCloud and YouTube, it’s really confusing to have to buy CDs. Hell, the last time I bought an album, I did it on my phone at 2 a.m. during finals week when Beyoncé dropped her surprise visual album — I didn’t go to the store to pick up the hard copy. Unfortunately for artists who generate income from selling tangible copies of their albums, everything has changed (Feat. Ed Sheeran).

    Swift’s actions may have been fearless, but were they even necessary? I don’t think so. Swift’s move is the first step in waging a war that’s already been lost.

    Swift’s motivations for this removal stem, as she explained in a column in the Wall Street Journal, from the low return many artists see from their participation in streaming services like Spotify.

    Those streaming services, however, are the future of music. In a society that is shifting to purchasing things online — look at Amazon.com Inc.’s stock over the last two years — no one wants to drive to Target to buy a CD that they could just listen to on their phone.

    According to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, who is naturally perturbed by Swift’s actions, this move isn’t striking at the core of the problem affecting artists.

    “You can’t look at Spotify in isolation,” Ek writes on the company blog. “Even though Taylor can pull her music off Spotify — where we license and pay for every song we’ve ever played — her songs are all over services and sites like YouTube and SoundCloud, where people can listen all they want for free, to say nothing of the fans who will just turn back to pirate services like Grooveshark. And sure enough, if you looked at the top spot on The Pirate Bay last week, there was 1989.”

    The era of the physical album is nearly gone, despite physical copies making up half of Swift’s impressive 1.3 million sales of 1989 in its first week. But while Swift understandably feels that profits from music sales are hers rather than any other company’s, that’s a false choice. Especially for artists smaller and poorer than Swift, their choices are limited to two: seeing the profits from their work split amongst others before reaching their own pockets or seeing their work garner no profits at all. The entertainment industry has just been too crippled by pirating. More people have seen “Game of Thrones” illegally than legally, if that puts it in perspective.

    Uber-rich Swift doesn’t have a problem with low return, but upcoming artists do. Her move to ditch Spotify was an attempt at artist activism, but ultimately, it feels like it comes more from entitlement than actual concern. Small artists who want to be successful in the modern age are going to have to go digital, and when big artists like Adele and Swift pull their music from Spotify, fewer consumers will pay for the subscriptions that subsidize those smaller artists.

    Music is a commodity, and the artists creating it have a right to stand behind their work and hold out their hand eagerly waiting for money to be deposited into it. But demand has shifted. People want to update playlists, not add clutter to their cars in the form of a new CD.

    I’m trying to shake it off, but I just don’t know if this rash artist activism was the right move for Swift, the industry or consumers. Sorry, Taylor. Your motives are understandable, but this is a little self-important, so come on back to Spotify now. You belong with me.

    _______________

    Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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