ARTS & CULTURE EDITOR
Taylor Swift had a huge week. According to Nielsen SoundScan, her latest album “1989” sold close to 1.3 million copies. In an era of low album sales, that should be the headline. Unfortunately, people are much less concerned with what Swift has accomplished and have instead focused their attention on how she did it. She unexpectedly pulled her entire music catalogue from Spotify, the revolutionary streaming service that has given music lovers unlimited, instant access to almost any song.
While many artists such as MisterWives and Hoodie Allen have publicly come out and defended their use of the streaming service, the reality is that Swift’s impressive sales are going to make well-known artists reconsider their participation on the site. So rather than elaborate on my position (since I am a devoted Spotify user and strongly support its service), I am going to try to answer that lingering question. Should artists stream their music on Spotify?
The answer, of course, is yes… and no. It really depends on where an artist is in terms of their career. New artists should live on Spotify. They can generate popularity through Spotify-sponsored playlists that can boost ticket sales for tours. There is also a list of related artists so inclusion on any of those can really help artists gain exposure and increase the number of people streaming their music.
Established artists like Swift do not have it as easy. For them, popularity is not the issue. They rely on ticket sales to make money. But how do they ensure that fans hear their new music so that they will want to go to the show? That is where Spotify comes in. It has pulled listeners from the large market of illegal downloading and brought them into a legal realm. Even if the artists do not see much of the streaming revenue, they need to capitalize on the listening traffic that has been created for them so that they will continue to fill stadiums and arenas.
This puts Swift in a winning position. She has the opportunity to do what Coldplay and Eric Church have already successfully done. This model, which seems to be the best move for artists in high demand, involves withholding his or her album from Spotify during the first month of its release. It allows fans who have intentions of buying the album the opportunity to be among the first to hear it while still opening it up to a broader market before the artist goes on tour. Therefore, be careful before scrutinizing Swift just yet. If 2015 comes and you still can’t find her music on Spotify, then, by all means, complain away.