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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Taylor Swift should not break up with Spotify

Have you heard Taylor Swift’s new album “1989” yet?

It’s the biggest music event of the year, but to listen to it, you’ll have to pay $13 — or find an illegal copy online. Why?  Because “1989” is conspicuously missing from one of the most popular legal music-streaming websites, Spotify, and the third-most-visited website in the world, YouTube. So are all of her previous releases, excluding collaborations.

Swift may currently have the upper hand over Spotify, which started the Twitter hashtag #justsayyes in an attempt to bring her back to the service. Unfortunately for Swift, however, the streaming industry is growing, and victory will only last so long before her music begins to suffer.

The demise of free, legal music has precedent. Record labels periodically release statements declaring that streaming services such as Spotify are detrimental to regular music sales. Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Taylor Swift’s label Big Machine Records, defended the decision to pull Swift’s music from Spotify. He said it protected Swift fans who paid for the music from the ridicule of those who would have been able to access the music for free.

Borchetta added that placing Swift’s music on Spotify would not be profitable for the company or artist, noting that while the total payout for her streaming over the past year was $2 million, Swift received less than half a million of the profits.

Although Swift’s album “1989” has sold more successfully than any album since 2002 and all her previous work, it is unclear whether this is because of or in spite of Swift’s decision to pull her music from Spotify. Swift has many loyal fans who would have bought the album whether or not they could stream it for free. Still, Borchetta and Swift should consider that some of Swift’s listeners are only casual fans and will not pay money to listen to her music if it is no longer available on websites like Spotify.

In fact, there are countless ways to listen to “1989” without forking over a dime. The initial leak of the album, a few days before its official release, occurred through a password-protected Tumblr site. Additionally, many playlists on the music-streaming site 8tracks.com contain copies of “1989” songs.

For instance, junior Michelle Shen said she went on Tumblr to listen to “1989.”

“You just search her album name and you can find the songs,” Shen said. “I would buy her album, but I wanted to see if I liked the majority of the songs first.”

By pulling her music from Spotify, Swift may be turning people who would otherwise listen to Spotify and help her generate profit through advertisements, toward blatantly illegal activity.  

In fact, Swift’s decision can be compared to HBO’s refusal to offer the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” to anyone other than their HBO GO subscribers, who pay for the cable service. As a result, “Game of Thrones” is the most pirated show on the Internet. Swift’s music may be headed down the same path.

Swift’s “1989” is also mostly absent from YouTube. The two songs officially available from “1989” on YouTube are “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space,” in the form of music videos.

Though Swift’s decision to keep “1989” off YouTube may drive some people to purchase the music, many people discover new songs through YouTube and its “suggested videos” feature.

YouTube also pays artists with money generated by advertisements,  depending on the number of views for their videos. If an uploader uses copyrighted music in a video, the artist can choose to mute, block or monetize the video.

Perhaps Swift is one of the only artists popular enough to succeed without YouTube or Spotify. To her fans, however, her refusal to appear on these sites may be a big turnoff. 

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