John Mayer has recently spoken out in support of Taylor Swift. For those of you who may not remember, Taylor Swift made headlines in 2014 when she decided to pull all of her music from Spotify, ahead of the release of her latest album, ‘1989,’ citing the streaming service does not pay artists fairly and the streaming service is hurting album sales. Here’s what John Mayer, apparent ex-fling of Taylor Swift (I had no idea), had to say about the matter, pulled from an article originally published on billboard.com :
“Artists need the person with the loudest voice to speak for them…I think that’s a really cool thing for a musician to do,” Mayer said. “Like two percent of the music industry has 80 percent of all the media about it. There’s like four people who get all the press, and if any of those four people say, ‘I want to speak for those people who would just never make this a story’–The only reason we’re talking about Taylor Swift taking Spotify on is because she’s Taylor Swift!”
At some point in the near future, I’ll be writing more in depth pieces on a number of factors at play in Taylor Swift v. Spotify, but there are a few key points I’d like to make here in light of John Mayer’s new statement.
Taylor Swift Isn’t Speaking Up Against Spotify For “The Little Guys”; She’s Speaking Up For Herself.
John Mayer makes the argument that with one of the loudest voices in the industry, Taylor Swift is speaking for artists who wouldn’t get the same level of media coverage.
No. No she’s not.
If she is, she’s going about it in the wrong way.
One of the great things about interactive (Spotify) and non-interactive (Pandora) music streaming services is they use algorithms and advanced research to recommend to the user, artists who, based on the user’s interested in Taylor Swift, the user may enjoy, but may not be aware of, yet. I know I personally, through Pandora and Spotify, have discovered some of my absolute favorite artists that I would have never heard of had I stuck to traditional radio. I have subsequently spent money on concerts, merchandise, downloads, and even promoted the artists via social media, potentially (I won’t give myself that much credit), potentially expanding their fanbase even further.
Upon pulling her music off Spotify, and making her album 1989 available only via digital or hard copy purchase, Taylor Swift earned the highest record sales for the entire year, even though it wasn’t released until October 27. Her Spotify battle was well-timed, and very profitable. For her. But what about the thousands of artists who may have been linked to her music with an algorithm (algorithmically? Is that a word yet?) who will now never be known by her millions of fans across the world? Well, they don’t benefit from Ms. Swift, at all. If anything, there very well may have been users who, upon hearing their pop-heroine has renounced the streaming service, declared their own personal war against Spotify and stopped using it all together.
While we’re at it, let’s all remember that being a musician isn’t necessarily 100% about album sales. There were musicians long before there was recorded music and today there are plenty of musicians who do just fine (and whose artistry arguably outshines that of Ms. Swift) and release their music on a “pay what you want” basis.
PS – This is for an entirely different article, but Spotify does not have complete control over exactly how much they pay Taylor Swift per song stream. Government regulation involving royalty payouts is based on a sales and consumer habit model that goes well beyond the term outdated. (More on that at a later date)
Taylor Swift Is Doing Just Fine.
Financially, that is. I don’t know her emotional state. Being a celebrity is tough for reasons I’m sure I’ll never understand. That’s why I’m not bashing her personally. I hope no one reads this as such. I actually enjoy the pop music she makes and she deserves all the credit in the world for working her way up through the country music scene and crossing over as one of the leading ladies in pop. She works hard to maintain her status, too. In fact, according to her website, she has at least 80 major tour dates left between now and the end of the year. Almost every third day, she is performing in front of at least tens of thousands of fans. She has two shows here in Philly at Lincoln Financial Field where she will perform in front of about 70,000 people each night. Kudos to her.
Eager to catch the Princess of Pop live in action, I logged onto ticketmaster to see if I could still get tickets and wouldn’t you know! I still can get in for as little as $95! You read that right, the cheapest tickets available for her weekend in Philadelphia are going for $95 each. Per show. Ouch.
Oh, and that’s not including the money I’d spend on parking, concessions, and merchandise.
Again, I’m not blaming Taylor individually. There are probably dozens if not hundreds in Taylor’s camp who are responsible for the steep prices. However, one would presume that the woman strong enough to speak out against Spotify for the “little guys,” may have the courage to speak up against ticket prices so expensive, that a family has to decide between a car payment, and taking their daughters to see their idol.
Last Words… For Now
I’ve heard wonderful things about Taylor Swift as a person, including glowing words from a brobible.com contributor. I applaud her for her laudable efforts she claims are for the benefit less privileged artists and fans. But perhaps, if she wanted to speak up for lesser known artists, she could promote them personally. She could talk on social media about what great music these little guys are making and encourage everyone to check them out. And maybe instead of surprising a fan with a big check to pay off student loans, Taylor, and/or her team, could take a little bit of a hit, so that your average fan’s family doesn’t have to take such a big one.
There are so many issues that need to be resolved in regards to the flow of money in the music and recording industries, which, by the way, are two different, but intertwined, industries.
- Government regulation restricts fair market value compensation for singer songwriters.
- Established industry heavyweights (radio, record, tv) are doing everything they can to inhibit the growth of new services using new technologies (streaming) that infringe on their bottom lines.
- Our culture is moving away from ownership to access (from buying and owning CD or digital copy, to buying a subscription).
Everyone is trying to get their money. This includes Spofity, who, by the way, has yet to turn a profit.
Taylor Swift v. Spotify seems to be a battle that refuses to lose steam. And it shouldn’t. There are cases to be made from every corner. While record sales are down, streaming sites make more music available to consumers at the touch of a button than we ever thought imaginable. Consumers now have more choice in what they listen to and no longer have to scour the earth to find something that isn’t being force-fed to them by major record labels over the radio or MTV (what even is MTV?). But if artists can no longer earn enough money to continue to create art, how long will the art last?