Was Taylor Swift’s Rejection of Spotify really about Defending Artist Rights?

Featured Image courtesy of Taylor Swift

Earlier this month, Taylor Swift captured the world’s attention when she pulled her catalog from music streaming service, Spotify. Like many, I was impressed by the move but at the same time, very confused by it.

Music streaming is not a new concept. Why pull her catalog from Spotify all of a sudden?

Pandora was founded in 2000. Spotify was founded in 2006 but didn’t launch in the United States until 2011. That’s still 3 years ago. We’ve been streaming Swift’s catchy tunes for quite a while now.

What’s more, why is there so much animosity towards Spotify when there are a plethora of other music streaming services out there? From what I gather, Swift’s team did not pull her catalog from Rdio, Pandora, or Deezer. Then of course, her music is still available on Youtube, which technically is the largest music streaming service in the world. Why then  has Spotify has been cast as the evil music streaming service? As far as I’m aware, there isn’t much of a difference when it comes to royalties for artists between the different platforms.

While 1989 did go platinum in its first week, selling 1.28 million copies, it’s hard to say if it was a result of pulling her music from Spotify specifically. Her album Red was released in 2012 and sold 1.21 million copies in its first week. If cutting Spotify out of the picture had any effect on her sales, it had more to do with the publicity associated with the move. Getting on the cover of TIME magazine is a pretty big deal and the debate over music streaming has been rekindled, with Taylor Swift as the artist hero, fighting for the rights of artists everywhere. But let us be reminded that the headlines target Spotify specifically and not the other music streaming services. If this is really about artist rights, why leave her music on the other above-mentioned streaming services?

I also find it odd that within a few days of Taylor breaking up with Spotify, Youtube makes the announcement that their own Music Key streaming service is launching soon. It sounds awfully similar to Spotify. I couldn’t help but think these two events were somehow connected.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who suspects the timing of this is more than coincidence. Musician Billy Bragg has recently postulated that Taylor’s rejection of Spotify is a mere “corporate power play” between Spotify and Google (which owns Youtube).  It turns out that her previous albums will be available on the new Youtube Music Key streaming service when it launches. While 1989 won’t be available in its entirety yet, users will be able to download the videos for “Shake it Off” and “Blank Space.”

This is kind of like saying, “I don’t like fast food so I won’t eat at McDonald’s. But Burger King is delicious.”

No doubt the people at Google want to dominate music streaming too. Back in July it was speculated that the company had plans to buy Spotify but the price was too high. Well, if you can’t buy them, beat them, right?

Knowing all this, it’s hard to believe that Taylor’s rejection of Spotify is purely due to her dissatisfaction with artist payouts on the platform, especially given that Google Play actually pays less in artist royalties per stream. Furthermore, her support of Youtube’s new music streaming service, Music Key, is troubling without knowing the facts. How will Youtube’s Music Key be more artist friendly than previous streaming services?  Is there a difference? Is it really worth demonizing a successful, independently run startup like Spotify in favor of a company that already rules the Internet and has its hands, in well, everything?

Readers, what are your thoughts? Get in on the conversation in the comments section below.


  1. Ruby Mora

    November 20, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I had no clue about the corporate power play, let alone the fact that T-Swift has all of her previous work under the YouTube Music Key Streaming service. It does seem like there might be more of a financial benefit through Music Key compared to Spotify. I think it’s a bit shady that she pulled that, but we’ll see what this new streaming service has to offer to both her and users.

  2. Lauren Silvestri

    November 20, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    You make such a great point here about the different streaming services and the corporate undertones here. If anything, musicians should be celebrating independent start-ups that help support musicians (by giving their music a wider audience). I think the decision to pull Taylor’s records is more from her record label than Taylor herself. Something is not fully adding up here…

  3. Amanda Silberling

    November 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    This all just seems like a big publicity stunt to me – as if Taylor didn’t get enough publicity to begin with.

  4. Pingback: Taylor Swift Sends Cease and Desist Letters to Etsy Vendors - Rock On Philly

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