Online streaming and Taylor Swift. An Editorial.

(Photo: Brian Friedman for IHeartRadio)
(Photo: Brian Friedman for IHeartRadio)

It’s not always about the audience, Taylor Nation.

You probably have heard how Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify. She has been very vocal about the fact that fact that she considers music a valuable asset that should have a cost. To quote the Sparkly Dressed, “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” You can read the original quote written on her own Wall Street Journal article.

According to TIME‘s article, Artists earn on average less than one cent per play, between $0.006 and $0.0084 on Spotify. You can confirm this on Spotify Artists. Recently there was an article in Wired magazine by singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc which stated its intention plainly on the title: Streaming Services Need to Play Songwriters Fairly. In this article, we learn the numbers for Pandora – one if not the largest digital music services out there. It takes roughly one million spins on Pandora for a songwriter to earn just $90.

Aloe Blacc co-wrote and even provided lyrics for Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” This song “was the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th most played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than 168 million streams in the US.” The Pandora domestic royalties came up to… $12,359. That amount was to be divided among the publishers in songwriters. He ended up getting $4,000 US dollars. To play Devil’s Advocate, these numbers are from Pandora only. There is no mention of Spotify’s revenue.

The Spotify model seems to be a little more lucrative. According to TIME, Spotify has stated that an unnamed but real-life artist was earning $425,000 per month in royalties for a “global hit album”. Also, over 70% of Spotify’s revenue goes to rights holders like the record label, publisher and distributor. All to say, was that the reason Taylor would pull her music catalog? It might have been another benefit in the works: online availability could have been perceived as more of hindrance than a benefit, regardless of the revenue earned.

It’s no secret most of the artist have to balance exposure versus revenue and for that reason they have to rely on popular online platforms that may not be as lucrative just to get their music out there. As it has recently been pointed out to me, Taylor might have chosen to go Spotify-less for an even more intense reason: selling her album didn’t require online presence given the buzz and the promotion machine that she is and the strangely loyal fanbase she counts on. There’s fans and then there’s the Taylor Nation. There are artists that promote themselves and then there’s Taylor Swift. Combine both anomalies and you have the perfect storm to create a record number of sales. An artist that knows its audience and gives them nothing but the highest quality of her craft versus a fandom that is willing to go out on a limb for a new music, a revised style (nudge nudge wink wink) even with a different genre approach (her new album is firmly and exclusively rooted in the Pop genre).

Did it pay off? Could the 1.287 million copies, a record-breaking sales number, be attributed to an album you had to get at stores or on iTunes but not listen to through an online service? Very possibly yes, but I have to admit this conclusion really comes via USA Today’s Brian Mansfield. Another selling point has been the brilliant marketing / promotion idea to include a set of pseudo-polaroid facsimiles in every physical copy of the album. I would like to hope that the genius that came up with that idea got a raise but chances are this one was just another sparkly idea of Miss Taylor Swift.

Taylor has been announced to play New York’s Rockin’ Eve hosted by Ryan Seacrest. The Sparkly Dressed is nominated for Best Female and Best Look at the 2014 MTV EMA on November 9. You can vote here.

Coming up on the Calendar!

(Sources: TIMEWiredUSA TodayWall Street Journal)

3 thoughts on “Online streaming and Taylor Swift. An Editorial.

  1. Hi !! Great editorial as always
    I wanted to read again the op- Ed Taylor did for the Wall Street journal , the one you linked , but it’s restricted and you have to pay 😥 , so my question is: do you have it? Or do you know where I can find it?

    Thanks !!
    Greetings from Mexico City!
    Natalia Vázquez

  2. This interview with Scott Borchetta from Nov. 7th regarding Spotify is a must to listen to. It’s not a black/white desicion based on how much income Taylor looses from streaming, and he explains everything really well. It’s about taking a stance against a business model that isn’t sustainable for artists in the long run. It’s less about Taylor and more about making a statement against a model that doesn’t allow artists to survive.

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