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Taylor Swift, Music Streaming and PR

Taylor Swift, Music Streaming and PR

[By Jason Mollica]

There is no mistaking the popularity of Taylor Swift in the music and entertainment world. She has a multi-platinum album, “1989,” a Top 5 song on the charts (“Bad Blood), and a crew that counts Emma Watson as one of the latest members. Swift is a darling of fans, who love her “down-to-earth” ways. She’s not making many fans, however, with her battles with Spotify and, most recently, iTunes.

Let me back up a bit because I’m sure the first response to this is, “What do you know about Taylor Swift? You’re too old!” Before you judge, let it be known that my daughter is a Tay-Tay fan, so I hear her songs pretty much daily. Her popularity as a solo artist is incredible. That doesn’t mean I think she’s Teflon.

Late last year, Swift made the somewhat unpopular move to pull her music off Spotify. Swift told Time Magazine, “On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.” Swift added that Spotify “devalued music.” That could be debated, but any PR furor died down before you could cue up “Shake it Off” on iTunes.

Ah, iTunes. That was Swift’s next target. In late June, she was critical of Apple for offering listeners a three-month free trial of Apple Music. Swift stated that she wouldn’t make “1989” available on the new service because of “unfair” practices. Swift said Apple wouldn’t be paying writers, producers, or artists for the three months.

While many felt that what Taylor Swift did with Apple was awesome, it was nothing more than a public relations stunt. See, while Swift was railing against Apple and, earlier, Spotify, she refused to criticize places like YouTube, where you can easily listen to her music for free. Do a search for “Taylor Swift Bad Blood” and see what comes up. You aren’t paying anything for that. And what Swift didn’t say was she is, in fact, paid for being on Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, etc.

Swift’s argument that she is looking out for the independent artists rings mostly hollow. Many “Indies” wouldn’t see much revenue from three-months of Apple Music anyway. As Pandora’s co-creator Tom Conrad stated on June 22, Swift’s career was build mostly on radio airplay, which doesn’t pay artists.

So why would Taylor Swift take a stand? In a case like this, you have a person whose PR could not be any better right now. But, what many didn’t realize is she is playing her cards perfectly. She continues to look like the darling of the music world, sticking up for the smaller artists.

Eventually though, Swift will take a swing for the fence and miss badly. The “woe is me” about the music industry may sound great to some. The average Spotify and iTunes listener, though, doesn’t care about her fight. Can I download the album? If I can’t, where can I get it? When it comes right down to it, Swift could see a serious PR issue if she decides to continue to fight a battle she really will not win.

I just hope Tay-Tay doesn’t harbor any bad blood for this blog post.


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