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Putting the Spot(ify) on Taylor Swift

Jeffrey Remz  |  November 5, 2014

If you try to listen to Taylor Swift on Spotify, you'll end up with a lot of air.

That's because her Swiftness, who just released her first pop album "1989" (some would say her country albums also were pop), - and/or her recodrd label - pulled not only the new disc, but her entire catalogue from the world's largest subscription streaming service

Swift made it clear in a Wall Street Journal commentary earlier this year that she was not particularly fond of streaming services. She made it clear that she thought artists should be paid for their music, which need not be given away for free.

That's not where many listeners are these days though. They want and expect to get their music for free.

Swift is in rarified air for a performer. She's about as big as it gets these days. Swift is not exactly a struggling artist. CBS Evening News said that Swift would get $175,000 for her efforts from Spotify, whereas if she sold the music on iTunes, the figure would be about $10 million or so.

And therein could be the obvious reason why Swift pulled her music. That's a lot of money to be left on the table. Some speculated that Swift will return to Spotify once her "1989" sales begin to level off. That won't happen in the near term, of course, because the sales are going to be strong, for a bit, especially the holidays at hand. Swift enjoyed tremendous sales of "1989" in its first week with almost 1.3 million units sold. That was the most since Eminem turned the trick in 1992.

Several publications wondered whether this move was tied to a rumored effort by her label, Big Machine, to be sold. The more sales by Swift, the better for Big Machine. Swift's family apparently has a stake in Swift, which would mean she would benefit from a sale.

Spotify certainly was not thrilled with the news. About one quarter of listeners have streamed her songs, according to Business Insider. her songs have made it onto 20 million playlists. Not bad.

A social media campaign was launched by Spotify to bring her back.

This is happening during a time of continuing decline of record sales. The figures are down 14 percent from this year compared to last year in units sold.

In these tough times for the music business, Swift is risking alienating her young fans, who aren't so big on buying CDs to begin with. So while understandable from a business standpoint, it is less so when considering Swift fans.

Then again, Swift can pretty much call the shots at this point. She has proven exceedingly adept in self-promotion, trying to connect herself to her fans as much as she can. This time around, she hosted private listening sessions including at her Nashville home.

Swift does things most other artist can't afford to do at this point, including the Spotify decision. Maybe Spotify needs to increase the revenue gives artists and spread the wealth. Who knows? Maybe Swift was also acting in the interest of artists everywhere, which would be a big positive for musicians. Or maybe she was concerned herself or her label.

Whether Swift fans would agree with the decision is debatable. Right now, they're probably scurrying elsewhere to hear "1989."

There's lots to consider in Swift's (and Big Machine's) decision. The music shake out will continue, and Swift is part of that front and center.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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