Taylor Swift: “I’m Not Willing to Contribute My Life’s Work to an Experiment that Doesn’t Fairly Compensate Artists”

swiftcitibank

from a just-published interview with Yahoo Music

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Yahoo Music: That leads to the streaming question. We’ve played the game of wondering whether you would have sold hundreds of thousands of fewer copies last week if the album had been available to people for free via those services. To a lot of people, you’re a hero for reinforcing that music still has a value. And then there are some people who think you’re standing in the way of progress by not giving in to the streaming model. What are your thoughts on all that?

Taylor Swift: If I had streamed the new album, it’s impossible to try to speculate what would have happened. But all I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment.

And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.

I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this summer that basically portrayed my views on this.  I try to stay really open-minded about things, because I do think it’s important to be a part of progress.  But I think it’s really still up for debate whether this is actual progress, or whether this is taking the word “music” out of the music industry.

Also, a lot of people were suggesting to me that I try putting new music on Spotify with “Shake It Off,” and so I was open-minded about it. I thought, “I will try this; I’ll see how it feels.” It didn’t feel right to me.

I felt like I was saying to my fans, “If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it’s theirs now and they don’t have to pay for it.”

I didn’t like the perception that it was putting forth. And so I decided to change the way I was doing things.

 

Image by Bruno Manso, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0). 

67 Responses

    • Anonymous

      That is what some women politicians cannot do,
      Make a point and stick to it.
      At first ppl are apprehensive but then ppl realize you are
      Serious.

      Reply
    • john

      all other services are bullshit de minimus players, they don’t even deserve mentioning.

      Reply
    • Vail, CO

      Still free on YouTube.

      Still free on Grooveshark.

      Still free on BitTorrent.

      Still free on The Pirate Bay.

      Still free on MP3skull

      Still NOT free on iTunes

      Still NOT free at Target

      Still NOT AVAILABLE on Spotify.

      Still doesn’t make any sense.

      Reply
      • Whatever

        So ? All software and movies are also available for free on pirate sites. Should all software and movie creators start working for free ?

        Reply
      • Blanca

        That’s what I don’t get… Is she against streaming? Is she against Spotify only? I mean, she’s one of the highest paid artist there, does this mean that she wants to increase her revenue through Spotify?

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          “she’s one of the highest paid artist there”

          That’s because she’s not on Spotify. You sell 400-500% more records when you keep your music away from the service during release week.

          That’s called windowing.

          Many are still confused about the concept so forgive me for repeating my little crash course:

          Most acts sell most of their music during the first weeks and months after release.

          If you give your songs away during this critical period, you will suffer a certain amount of cannibalization (people don’t buy your music because they can get it for free without breaking any laws). Nobody knows the exact ratio, but you would lose money even if it were as low as 1 to 100 (it takes 100-140 Spotify streams to balance the loss of 1 sold song). And nobody claims the ratio is that low.

          So a lot of smart people thought about this for a while and the smartest among them — people like Beyoncé, Adele, Coldplay, Black Keys, Daft Punk, Taylor Swift and their teams — realized that windowing was the way to go:

          Windowing comes in all shapes and sizes, but it generally means that you keep your property away from Spotify, or similar services, during the most critical period in the lifespan of a record — and that you make it available on these services as soon as sales begin to drop.

          Reply
      • Versus

        That’s not free any more than the items in any store are “free” because you can shoplift them.

        Reply
    • Economics Anyone?

      Spotify is not paying sustainable rates for the cost of goods. Look – it’s like this. If something cost you $100 to make, and someone else sells it for $10… it doesn’t matter that you are getting 70% of the gross, you’re still over 90% unrecouped on a per unit basis.

      This is the problem with Spotify and these arguments. It’s simple math and simple economics. The cost of music is not in the distribution of music. The cost of music is in the human labor of the CREATION of music. The CREATION of music is also more than the cost of RECORDING music. The cost of music is in the sustainable needs of the human labor for food, shelter, clothing, etc.

      Spotify can not scale and work.

      SPOTIFY MATH FOR THOSE OF YOU AT HOME WITH CALCULATORS:

      Just show me the math where streaming scales, I’ll wait. Spotify has 3m paid in the US at $10 each.

      $10 x 12 mos = $120 per year. Pay out 70% that’s a gross of $84 per year per subscriber. Simple Math.

      That $84 per sub is in revenue to all artists in rights holders. Times that by 3m and you get a whopping $252m a year in a $7b business.

      Multiple that by 10, to get 30m subs @ $10a month and that’s only $2.5b a year… and that’s a big IF Spotify ever gets to 30m paid in the USA… and IF they do, that’s ONLY 2.5b in revenue against the $7b now…

      So you effectively cut the revenue to everyone by 1/2 to 2/3rds… how does this math work without raising the price of subscriptions? It doesn’t.

      It’s just math.

      Reply
    • A Radio DJ

      it’s free on the Radio, so that the misic can be heard by the public, and when they like what they hear, they can then Buy it. Without this free Radio service, you would never get to hear the Music that you like. File Sharing, and free downloads unsupported by the Artist, are costing that said Artist very Dearly. For I say to you, would you go out to Work FOR FREE?!!!!! yet you expect the Musicians to supply you with Free Music, Unbeleivable.

      Reply
  1. YouTube

    But I am willing to contribute my life’s work to a proven experiment that compensates even less and is owned by one of the world’s largest corporations.

    Reply
    • Yup

      It blows me away still that everyone rips more on Spotify than YouTube… Hello???!!! Spotify at least has some paying users!

      Reply
    • Ejah Digi

      Huh? She didn’t put her album on YouTube. She has a couple singles up through VEVO but that’s a very different proposition. Like most music, others will upload it to YouTube so you’d better be monetizing and not wasting all your time on DMCA takedown requests!

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        YouTube probably cannibalizes sales less too. I know that sounds weird, but just the UI of YouTube and the bandwidth it uses makes it harder to use on mobile.

        Reply
      • YouTube

        Quote: “Also, a lot of people were suggesting to me that I try putting new music on Spotify with “Shake It Off,” and so I was open-minded about it. I thought, “I will try this; I’ll see how it feels.” It didn’t feel right to me. I felt like I was saying to my fans, “If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it’s theirs now and they don’t have to pay for it.” I didn’t like the perception that it was putting forth. And so I decided to change the way I was doing things. ”

        Shake it off is up on YT. She put it there. She’s fine with that even though they pay less. So shes a hypocrite.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Big Machine probably signed a long term deal with YouTube, many labels have done that.

          So there’s no way out.

          The only solution is to wait (and obviously never sign anything like that again).

          Reply
        • David

          On YouTube it’s a promotional video, not just a record. Do you ‘see’ the difference? Taylor Swift’s people have been very active in policing YT to take down videos just containing some or all of the music from 1989. If you search for ‘Taylor Swift 1989 full album’ I think it will be difficult to find a working copy. Most of them have either been taken down or, more cunningly, stripped of the original music, like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGswE1yT8dA The brilliance of this is that anyone who does want to stream the album will have to work harder to find a version that works. I don’t know if this is a special arrangement between Swift and YouTube or an option available to everyone.

          Reply
  2. Eva Brown

    “I’m Not Willing to Contribute My Life’s Work to an Experiment that Doesn’t Fairly Compensate Artists”

    Dear Taylor, nobody holds you back to change your “life’s work”.

    Reply
  3. GGG

    Yea, well copying the same huge bullshit manifesto in every thread isn’t necessary. And copy/pasting 4 words over and over just put you into The Shining level of crazy.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      If this comments section has any rules, it should be no spamming/flooding and no copypasta.

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I don’t agree with her decision. I think Spotify is swell. I think streaming is the future. I think her music is absolute crap that in a more perfect world wouldn’t be listened to by anyone.

    But it’s her music, and I think she can do whatever she wants with it.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    like fuck, we are all being wire tapped, when will these fuckers get it????

    if anyone has any fucking baggage dont fucking call me or come a knocking…

    FUCK!!!!

    Reply
    • DNog

      How do you have the longest post ever and still can’t fit all your bullshit in it??? You’re replying to your own post like you are having a conversation with yourself…go start a tumblr and type till your fingers bleed, fucktard. No one cares about anything you say.

      Reply
      • GGG

        No, look, I’m being 100% serious here. The thing is we get 100% what you’re saying. You’re alleging that someone stole one of your horrible songs to make their own horrible song, and you want compensation. That’s totally fine. Happens all the time, we understand it sucks and you should fight that.

        The issue is we don’t fucking care at this point, and you’ve done that to yourself. You’ve sullied your own character but being a lunatic. Nobody else has. You aren’t posting facts, you’re posting bullshit. Facts would be posting your shitty song, then Bieber’s shitty song so we can all listen and judge. At this point, you’re screwing yourself over by looking like an insane person. All Scooter’s lawyers would have to do is show up in court with these posts and the judge would be like “well, clearly his person is crazy, no case.” Also, go ask a fucking lawyer; posting “affidavits” (which these are not) on a random website isn’t how that shit works. It, again, just makes you look like a nut.

        Reply
  6. RIAA

    2014 first 6 months—- download: $1.3 billion (down 12%)
    2014 first 6 months —-streaming: $859 mil (up 28%)
    2014 first 6 months —- physical: $898 (down 14%)

    source: RIAA

    2014 full year prediction —-download: $2.444 billion (down 12%)
    2014 full year prediction —-streaming: $1.959 billion (up 28%)
    2014 full year prediction —-physical $1.670 billion (down 14%)

    2015 prediction: STREAMING WILL BE KING

    #1 Streaming: $2.5 billion (up 28%)
    #2 Download: $2.1 billion (down 12%)
    #3 Physical: $1.5 billion (down 14%)

    Reply
  7. RIAA

    I wonder how much traffic will DigitalMusicNews get if they put the headline

    STREAMING REVENUE WILL BE #1 in 2015
    STREAMING REVENUE WILL BE BIGGER THAN DOWNLOAD + PHYSICAL IN 2016

    Reply
    • steveh

      Sorry Mr RIAA but you simply can’t use the definitive “will be” when you are making a speculative projection.

      Yes it appears that in first half 2014 streaming made a 28% rise.

      But you cannot possibly know for sure that this rise will be maintained in 2014-2 and into 2015-1 & 2015-2

      You can speculate you can predict – but you cannot know for sure so please stop bullshitting us.

      Reply
  8. derby

    Spotify is terrific for a music consumer like myself. Love it. Do I see the issues brought up by the anti-Spotify folks? Yes, I do. But streaming is the future. It might not work perfectly for everyone (or every artist), but it works nicely for music lovers. I buy plenty of tunes on iTunes and have hundreds and hundreds of CDs (from when I bought CDs), but the ability to consume and search and enjoy so much music (some I know/own, some I am just now discovering) via streaming platforms is awesome. It’s just awesome.

    If Ms. Swift wants to keep her stuff off Spotify, good for her. But she is swimming against the current of a changing world. She’s a big star, so she can swing it one way or the other, but I think she should embrace the new technology and stop trying to position herself as some savoir of the arts. Good Lord…

    She’s a pop star who is on a roll. But it won’t last forever. And down the road she’ll be glad her music is available to as many folks as possible – at least those who give a damn about what she has to say – musically.

    Reply
      • PiratesWinLOL

        Yeah, consumers prefering streaming above anything else it totally a conspiracy. Just like the only thing that really matters, which is the cold hard facts and figures that Mr. RIAA has been quoting above.

        If you notice, the few people who reject Spotify, is just the same few greedy people again and again. It is the same parade that keep repeating itself and in the bigger picture it won’t matter. I hope in the case of Swift, she will keep it up though, for so long that people will just forget her and her horrible, offensive music. That and her awful appearence makes the world worse than it already is. She is 25 and looks like she is 50. They should send her to Iraq and let Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi choose her clothing style. That would be the only thing that could help her.

        Reply
        • David

          Well, you’re a charming fellow, aren’t you? Winning new supporters to the pirate cause!

          Reply
        • Anonymous

          That was the most neck-beardy comment I’ve ever read on DMN, PiratesWinLOL sounds like he’s about 14…

          Reply
  9. MusicMan

    The problem is that all of the tech companies start with whatever proposition makes them wealthy, then they work backwards from there. So, they end up ripping everyone (but themselves) off. A better way would be to figure out what payout-per-stream works for the music creators, add in the cost of operations + development, mark it up a reasonable percentage, and then charge that. If that ended up making streaming not financially viable, well, so be it. It’s not like it is financially viable now, either, since only the techs are getting paid (more than a pittance).

    Reply
    • cmonbro

      Exactly.. this nice little spin Taylor is putting on it feels very Republican (talking point) like..

      Simply they wanted to do something (offer to paid users only)… Spotify said no. So they pulled the catalog..

      I do think Spotify needs to explore the option. It is understandable if some artists want to only offer it to paid users. It is an incentive to upgrade as well.

      Reply
  10. SoThere

    This is all Clear (Channel) as Day
    Another great publicity grabbing move by Taylor swift and her label Big Machine .
    Taylor Swift has a deal $$$ with Clear Channel and iHeart Radio/Media. Now that Spotify has gained a serious foothold, Spotify is now in direct conflict with her Clear Channel arrangement. That’s why she only wanted her 1989 tracks made available outside of the U.S. $$$. I don’t think she or her label really give a rats… about songwriters rights and song value. This is strictly business and the pressure is on from Clear Channel.

    http://www.clearchannel.com/Pages/Big-Machine-Label-Group-and-Clear-Channel-Announce-Groundbreaking-Agreement-to-Enable-Record-Company-and-Its-Artists-to-Par.aspx

    My Take

    Reply
  11. SoThere

    This is all Clear (Channel) as Day
    Another great publicity grabbing move by Taylor swift and her label Big Machine .
    Taylor Swift has a deal $$$ with Clear Channel and iHeart Radio/Media. Now that Spotify has gained a serious foothold, Spotify is now in direct conflict with her Clear Channel arrangement. That’s why she only wanted her 1989 tracks made available outside of the U.S. $$$. I don’t think she or her label really give a rats… about songwriters rights and song value. This is strictly business and the pressure is on from Clear Channel.

    Reply
    • David

      That’s an interesting point, and it would give Swift/Borchetta an additional motive for spurning Spotify. On the other hand, if it is the main reason the timing seems odd. Swift’s agreement with Clear Channel goes back to June 2012, before the release of ‘Red’. If Clear Channel didn’t want Swift’s music on Spotify, the obvious break-point would have been when deciding what to do with ‘Red’. But in fact, although there was quite a long window period, ‘Red’ did eventually go on Spotify for about a year before the recent removal. Also, Borchetta has confirmed (check his interview in the link I gave) that he and Swift would have been willing for her back catalog to stay on Spotify for paid subscribers. And presumably Clear Channel would have been willing for it to stay on Spotify outside the US. So it doesn’t quite add up unless you think there was an elaborate and expensive cover-up to disguise their real motives.

      Reply
  12. marko

    So a guy breaks into my house, and I catch him trying to steal my stuff. I say, hey lets talk about why you should pay me the value of what your taking. He, of course, pulls a gun and runs off with my stuff. This is what its like talking to people who are addicted to FREE music. They have no intention of being equitable, thats why they stole it to begin with. In fact, any price that would look equitable to them, HAS TO BE close to being free. VERY CLOSE.

    Someone says, well gee mark, your gonna get your stuff stolen anyway, why not at least get something out of it? Isn’t something better than nothing? This is Spotify. They stand up and offer a solution that essentially allows the thief to legally offer what I own at a price so low that it’s simply not worth stealing anymore. Suddenly the former THEIF has a legal option, without any legal responsibility if he gets caught.

    Suddenly the thief (parading in self righteous consumer clothing) starts thinking he is a part of a real and equitable SOLUTION, when in fact he is the same thief he was yesterday. The difference is that they he has a larger company like SPOTIFY giving them the feeling that THEY, are being wronged. Somehow the tables get turned and THEY are now being taken advantage of by the likes of Taylor Swift. Greedy Witch!

    Where does this leave the musicians. First, no matter how little we get paid per play, they (SPOTIFY) have millions of people addicted to a nearly free acting out in ignorant self-righteous outraged. Second, where do you think a conversations with a thief is going to end. YUP…. he is gonna pull a gun and take your stuff, or tell you you need to give it away because your gonna have it stolen anyway. IF he ever does agree to pay you, don’t be surprised when it looks damn near close to being free.

    So to all you people head over heals in love with Spotify, wake up. YES, Spotify is legal, but its as good as sweatshop Nikes. When Spotify wants to pay artists a fraction of a fraction of a percentage per play…. They are not just pulling the gun, they are walking away with our SH*t! They do this because YOU wont pay much over the price of FREE for our music. What do you suppose that says about you?

    Reply
  13. Versus

    Not my taste in music, but I completely support Taylor Swift’s stance an outspokenness on this. We need more artists to come forward and do the same, and not be afraid of “alienating” fans. Fans who don’t care if you are paid poorly (or at all) are not fans. Real fans would support artists being paid properly.

    – A fan (who has indeed sometimes bought multiple copies and version of music to support artists) (and direct from the artist via Bandcamp or other means is the best way to support the artist’s music) (well, buy your mercy if you want, that’s at least money to support the artist, but also perpetuates the idea that the t-shirt is worth more than the music)

    Reply
  14. R.P.

    Taylor Swift would sell as many albums with or without Spotify. She represents the 1% of the 1% of music artists that make money selling music. Meaning, she cannot be brought into any debates about streaming. More so, she is still being streamed for free on other platforms.

    Reply
  15. PJ Wassermann

    There should be a law forcing streaming services (incl. YT) not to play more than 30% of a song to non-paying users.

    And the internet service providers should have to pay loads of money to the rights owners because they make a lot of money on streaming.

    Reply
  16. anonymous

    I’m not a big fan of Taylor Swift but I respect her decision and understand why she made the decision. Royalty wise, ‘one’ track has to be streamed 200-300 times for it to equal one download from iTunes, etc.

    Reply
  17. Willis

    Her statement is ludicrous. Simply the effort of creating and attempting to make a career out of music is an “experiment that ‘may’ not fairly compensate an artist.” Get over yourself, old lady, and come into the present day.

    Reply
  18. Joseph Salinas

    I think Taylor Swift is doing the right thing by removing her music from spotify. spotify can’t afford her, since spotify lose 70% of revenue to rights holders. @ http://www.mixley.com

    Reply

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