Swift flexes muscle to break up with Spotify

Taylor Swift

The break-up queen has done it again.

Taylor Swift, the US pop-country singer who parlayed heartache into global super-stardom, has flexed her showbiz muscles and dump Spotify — and the music streaming company doesn’t want to let go.

But industry figures say Swift’s decision to remove her back catalogue from Spotify is unlikely to prompt a larger exodus.

“It’s a little bit like the Adele album a few years ago: She’s her own centre of gravity, normal rules don’t apply to her,” said Eamonn Forde from UK music strategy and information organisation Music Ally.

“It’s a bit of a fool’s errand to try to take any hard, general rules from this.”

The decision not to immediately release her latest album, 1989, on Spotify — a move known in the music streaming industry as ‘windowing’, which is designed to drum up early album sales and downloads — came as no surprise, Forde said.

Giants of the industry, including Beyonce and Coldplay, have trod that path before. But only one major artist — Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke — has ever joined Spotify before exiting altogether.

Yorke pulled his solo projects from the platform last year, famously describing Spotify as “a last fart, desperate fart of a dying corpse”.

Though Swift’s retreat was muted — neither she nor her label has yet commented — it’s understood it came as a shock to the company.

“Streaming’s the only part of the business that’s really growing,” Forde said. “It’s significant that she’s pulled her stuff from the biggest service.”

Figures released by UK industry body BPI last month suggest local audio streaming has almost doubled year-on-year, from 5.4bn streams to 10.2bn.

Forde said it was clear Swift was confident fans would be willing to pay for her album if they could not access it for free through Spotify, rather than head instead to peer-to-peer platforms. “I think it’s partly down to her relationship with her fans,” he said.

“You don’t get to be as big as she is, as quickly as she has, without being a very, very savvy and smart operator.”

Spotify would not comment except to say it was hopeful of a reconciliation: “We love Taylor Swift and our more than 40m users love her even more — nearly 16m of them have played her songs in the last 30 days, and she’s on over 19m playlists.

“We hope she’ll change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone.

“We believe fans should be able to listen to music wherever and whenever they want, and that artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy.

“That’s why we pay nearly 70% of our revenue back to the music community.”

Forde predicted Swift’s star would continue to rise even if she never returned to the on-demand streaming site. “[Her UK tour in 2015] is the kind of show that’ll sell out in seconds. She’s absolutely at the peak of her power... this is her imperial period,” he said.


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