Spotify and Taylor Swift: Not a love story

So there’s this singer named Taylor Swift. Maybe you’ve heard of her. The pop-convert’s album, “1989,” just went platinum, despite the flak it’s received from critics and bloggers. Personally, I say good for her for managing to be successful in multiple genres, but were her record sales pushed over the edge due to the removal of her entire repertoire from Spotify?

It’s no secret that Spotify users get a pretty sweet deal when it comes to accessing music. As a user myself, I enjoy streaming practically every artist I’ve heard of, with few exceptions. Spotify can also be a great tool for musicians to market themselves. It’s like MySpace, but the social aspect is optional.

Artists don’t get paid much for putting their hard work on Spotify. In fact, artists make between $0.006 and $0.0084 when users pay for a song. Basically, artists put their songs on this music platform and hope listeners will be directed to their profiles. Once a song is played, Spotify then owes the artist a fraction of a cent.

What makes Taylor Swift think she can just take all of her music away from her adoring fans like that? What difference will it make to her bank account? Obviously not much, but in this case, I think it’s more a matter of the principle of the thing.

When the public can obtain all music imaginable for a maximum monthly fee of only $10, why buy the full physical copy of the album? Record sales are a thing of the past, and artists who are just trying to get on the map don’t have much of a choice but to reach their audiences through platforms like Spotify. Even iTunes, I’m afraid, is becoming yesterday’s news when it comes to purchasing songs. With the Spotify app for iPhone and Android, it’s now easier than ever to have all the music you want at your fingertips.

Artists like Swift, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and others carrying that clout will have no problem selling millions of albums with each new release. With plenty of shelf space at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other big-name retailers — their advertising is practically done for them. It’s like the more popular you are as an artist, the less effort you have to put in to make money. Upon removing her music from Spotify, Ms. Swift was promptly recognized with a playlist in her honor called, “What to Play While Taylor’s Away.”

From an artist’s perspective, I think what Swift is doing is wise. She’s using her power to help other artists who haven’t quite made it big yet, but I haven’t noticed too many other artists who have taken their music down. From a Spotify Premium user’s perspecitve – happily giving up $5 every month – I fear that my musical fortress could come tumbling down if Swift keeps pressing the issue. I haven’t even used the iTunes app on my iPhone in over a year and a half because my one and only music source is Spotify.

It all comes down to balance. Are small-scale musicians willing to give up the publicity Spotify gets them to sell a few more albums from their booths at their shows? While big-time performers can fiscally afford to lose the little bit that Spotify gives them, lesser-known artists can’t afford to lose the exposure that Spotify provides.

That being said, Spotify isn’t really the bad guy here — Taylor Swift is for holding her tunes hostage. Just kidding Tay, you’re still the best. Thank goodness I have hard copies of “Taylor Swift”, “Speak Now”, “Red” and “1989” to get me through the Spotify drought.