Spotify Says Taylor Swift Is ‘Increasing Piracy’ and ‘Setting the Industry Back’

Taylor Swift’s Reputation proves that not every artist needs streaming to be successful.  Spotify says that’s hurting Swift and other artists.

For years, Taylor Swift has kept her albums off popular streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.  Reversing her stance on streaming, Spotify made Swift’s back catalog available on the platform last June.  Now, seemingly backtracking once again, the singer is withholding her latest album, Reputation, from streaming for at least a week.

So, how has that decision affected her sales?  Barely, if at all, according to Billboard.

Tracking first day sales of the album, Reputation moved 700,000 units in the US on its first day.  The album could sell well over 1 million copies in its first week.  Multiple sources added that Reputation could earn the singer “her largest sales week yet.”

But, did you know that the decision to keep the album off streaming platforms has actually boosted piracy?  That’s according to Spotify Global Head of Services, Troy Carter.

A push away from streaming and towards piracy.

Speaking at the Internet Association’s Virtuous Circle Summit on Monday about Swift’s newest album, Carter said,

A lot of it is going to be pirated.  It kind of sets the industry back a little bit.

He may have a point.  Looking at torrent index metasearch engine Torrentz2, multiple torrents of Taylor Swift’s Reputation have a combined total of 1,648 seeders.  The torrents currently have a combined total of 573 leechers illegally downloading Reputation.

On the other hand, R.E.M.’s newest album, the anniversary re-issue of Automatic for the People, only has 77 seeders with 17 leechers.  Unlike Reputation, you can stream Automatic for the People on Spotify.

Both albums were released on the same day.

Get Your Free MP3 Download of Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’ — On Google Maps

Complimenting the singer’s savvy business decision, Carter added that he understood the singer’s reasoning behind keeping Reputation off streaming platforms.

Taylor is super smart.  We are not mad at her for the decision she made.

In addition, Carter admitted that the music industry has unfairly harmed music fans in the past.  People who only want to hear one or two tracks would have to purchase “highly priced albums.”

We screwed over consumers for years.”

Carter also discussed how music exclusives on other streaming platforms (i.e., Apple Music) have set back the industry.

It’s bad for consumers, bad for artists, bad for the music business.

He also took the time to criticize the modern-day radio industry for ignoring music fans.

Radio has become this place that is so fear-driven and research driven, and advertising driven, that they forgot about the consumer.  They only want to play songs that are already hits.

Forgetting about the consumer, argued Carter, would ultimately lead younger generations away from radio and towards streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube.

While the music industry has grown thanks to streaming, Carter cautioned against celebrating streaming’s success too early.  According to Variety, platforms like Spotify are “probably many years away from profitability.”

“The music industry is celebrating on the one-yard line right now.  That scares me.”


Featured image by Penn State (CC by 2.0)

17 Responses

  1. Anon

    Spotify is just upset that they don’t have a download store they can direct their users to buy the new album. I’d imagine that Amazon and Apple much moreso are laughing all the way to the bank with the delayed streaming release for Taylor’s new album.

    • Anonymous

      “Spotify is just upset that they don’t have a download store”

      Exactly! So why don’t they open one?

  2. Anonymous

    Yes, windowing a new release will increase piracy. But if you’re moving 700,000 in one day, you’re making a hell of a lot more money than you would if you released it to streaming on day one. So who cares if piracy increases? We need to see a lot more of this type of windowing in the music industry, and we need to stop being afraid of increased piracy. Let it increase.

    As to his other points… I do agree that the high price of CDs in the 90s in order to listen to 1 or 2 tracks was unfair to consumers. But the problem is that the pendulum has swung way too far in the other direction. Now you can listen to anything you want, any time you want, often without paying anything. I think there should be a balance. The ideal business model would be for all popular new releases to be windowed as digital downloads and CDs only for a certain period of time, then be made available on subscription services for a period of time, and finally be made available on ad-supported services. $10/month should not get you all the music in the world. If you want to listen to something new, you should pay $0.99 per track, or take your chances with piracy. Free interactive streaming on YouTube and Spotify Free needs to be promotional only, and not be the primary means in which music is consumed. We need to push for whatever legislative solutions are necessary to make that happen.

    If streaming didn’t exist and the music industry insisted on making everything available as CDs and digital downloads, piracy would’ve killed the industry by now. But the way our industry has been attempting to reduce piracy is reducing the value of music, making it so hard for artists and songwriters to make a living. I don’t think reducing piracy should be the goal anymore. I think if there is a mix of digital downloads for new releases and streaming for older content, the industry would be able to thrive in spite of increases in piracy.

    • Jim

      That’s pretty good right there.

      I’d add that the music industry has done a terrible job of actually using the internet to get money from their acts. You should be able to pay per view a video, pay per listen. Like a jukebox.

      If I’m Taylor Swift, and I want my music to be available to stream, I’d have links on my .com where you could stream any song for 5 cents. On the top of the music page of the .com, maybe you have the youtube song you want everyone to hear right now, maybe a spotify playlist, but youtube and spotify are for the hits you want people to hear a lot, and on her own page, everything, but it costs money. You get the same amount of money if you have 1 streaming play to 4 piracy plays if you’re getting 5 cents a stream. Acts don’t need to be thinking about piracy as much as they need to think about new ways to get paid.

      Taylor Swift seems to be pretty spot on with what she’s doing. She and other big acts need more tools to make money with. Music really shouldn’t be a subscription service.

    • Anonymous

      “So who cares if piracy increases?”

      Spotify — because there’s less for them to pirate.

      • Anonymous

        Spotify uses the threat of piracy as a boogeyman to scare the labels into making everything available on day one, to increase the value of their service. What’s good for Spotify is not good for the industry. It’s time for the labels to wake up and realize that piracy is not the boogeyman Spotify makes it out to be. They need to start forcing Spotify’s hand, and insisting on windowed releases as digital downloads.

  3. DavidB

    So Spotify claims that streaming exclusives are ‘bad for consumers, bad for artists, bad for the music business’. Does this mean Spotify will never do any more exclusives themselves? And have they forgotten that in the past Spotify used its own exclusives (Led Zeppelin, etc) to help crush less-well-funded competitors? Or are they well aware of this but think the rest of us are too stupid to remember?

  4. Jim

    Taylor Swift should be able to get more than the almost nothing she’d get from Spotify.

    Taylor Swift was able to get $15 chunks of money from over a Million fans in a week. Spotify can’t do that for Taylor Swift. Spotify has the first few Taylor Swift singles. Good enough for Spotify, what are they complaining about.

    There needs to be a solution that gets acts who have fans paid. Spotify doesn’t do a great job of that. Taylor Swift can say “I want 5 cents a stream, or else I won’t stream”. Someone should be able to figure out a way to get Taylor Swift 5 cents a stream.

  5. Virtuous Circle

    Funny – Spotify is at a “Virtuous Circle” Summit. Is there anything virtuous about highly promoting a song by Post Malone that glorifies denigrating women and opioid use? First line “I’ve been fuckin’ hoes and poppin’ pillies”. Quite virtuous in the Harvey Weinstein era!

  6. NO

    How could you try and compare a brand new TAYLOR SWIFT record with a re-issued REM album that’s 25 years old? Not even a fair comparison. We’re talking about new material from the biggest pop star in the world vs. a record people have had for 25 years from a band that’s not even together anymore.

  7. Anonymous

    It goes without saying that you shouldn’t stream new songs on Spotify — that would be suicidal.

    But now we’re discussing Swift, I’d like to add something else: I’ve previously criticized Paul for his anti-free speech crusade against alleged white supremacists (e.g. artists with ‘nazi era’ font tattoos and covers). I actually used Swift’s Reputation as an example of how non-nazis use that kind of fonts in their cover art.

    Only thing is I’m not so sure anymore. Now, I still don’t think people should be blocked on Spotify or anywhere else for expressing themselves artisticly, but Taylor Swift does seem more and more creepy to me, especially after this Marie Claire article yesterday:

    Not so much because of the article itself, but because her fans had a total meltdown on Twitter in response. And the vast majority were clearly far right guys.

    So I’m beginning to think I’ve been pretty naive about this and that her Reputation design actually was meant as a dog whistle. And a really creepy one at that. 🙁

  8. Mandelbrot

    Statistics lesson. You have to control for relative popularity of the two recordings, before you can even begin to suggest causality model. Then you need a plausible causality model. Taylor Swift has released a new recording that is outselling the REM recording at least 100 to 1. If there 577 leechers for Taylor Swift and 17 leechers for REM controlling for relative popularity and using your framing of the causality, the numbers suggest the opposite: Steaming increases piracy. That is obviously not true. Therefore you have a totally broken causality hypothesis.

  9. Adam

    What about markets where Spotify (and streaming) is HUGE? Look at the Nordics, Spain, France, etc – 70-80% of all music sales are streaming. Wouldn’t it have made sense to stream there?

    US, UK, etc – sure. Makes sense to leave it off streaming for awhile and rack up sales but in these other markets there’s simply no other alternative (except piracy) anymore.

    • Anonymous

      Nothing wrong with using different distribution strategies in different territories. But why is it not an option to sell digital downloads in the Nordics?

  10. Versus

    Spotify and piracy both set the industry back.
    Which is the lesser evil?