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Taylor Swift refuses to let you listen to her music on Spotify and now expects you to buy concert tickets too

By | Published on Tuesday 4 November 2014

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s new album, ‘1989’, is expected to sell over 1.3 million copies in the US in its first week, an impressive figure some might wish to put down to the fact she refused to make the new long player available on the streaming services at point of release. Whether that’s true or not, she’s celebrating already by pulling her entire catalogue down from Spotify and other streaming platforms.

Although ‘windowing’ – releasing new material via download before streaming – isn’t uncommon for certain high profile acts, Taylor Swift and her label Big Machine have always been particularly vocal about their fear that a presence on the big streaming platforms will damage first week download sales.

Her last album, ‘Red’, was kept away from the ears of fans who don’t like the outdated concepts of downloading music or buying CDs for seven whole months. As a result, Spotify had already noted the absence of the new record from its catalogue, with its official Twitter account retweeting a message to the musician pleading with her not to hold out too long.

And Spotify’s PR offensive stepped up yesterday when it became the first streaming service to comply with a request to take down Swift’s entire catalogue (Deezer having now followed suit, though I’ve had a pleasant morning listening to her on Rdio and Tidal), addressing the matter directly on the company blog.

“We love Taylor Swift”, it fawned. “And our more than 40 million users love her even more – nearly sixteen million of them have played her songs in the last 30 days, and she’s on over nineteen million 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”.

It also wrote out a further message to the singer in song titles via a playlist, and used another to suggest other music for its users to listen to while Swift’s music isn’t available on its platform.

It’s not clear whether the decision to take all of Swift’s music off some streaming services is label or management led. In the main, most labels are Spotify fans and where key artists don’t appear it’s down to artist management exercising veto clauses on how their client’s music is distributed.

Though as noted, Big Machine is an exception here. At the time of the release of ‘Red’ the US indie’s boss Scott Borchetta said: “We’re not putting the brand new releases on Spotify. Why shouldn’t we learn from the movie business? They have theatrical releases, cable releases. There are certain tiers. If we just throw out everything we have, we’re done”.

Most labels would not agree, reckoning that the wider record industry needs Spotify et al to succeed, and that that ambition is hindered if big new releases are held off the streaming platforms for months at a time. Though big name artists, who aren’t in the ‘record business’ in the same way as the labels and streamers (Taylor Swift is primarily in the Taylor Swift business), might wonder why it’s up to them to help Spotify’s business model work.

As Mark Mulligan pointed out in a blog post yesterday, there could be a middle ground here if Spotify et al would allow big name artists to make their new content available to the streaming firms’ paying subscribers, but not freemium users. After all, the freemium option on Spotify etc is mainly an upsell platform to try and secure new paying customers, rather than a standalone business, and the Swifts of this world might argue it’s not their job to help sell Spotify subscriptions.

But the streaming firms have been reluctant to adopt that approach, and would likely point out that said music is already available to stream for free on YouTube and other user-upload platforms like Grooveshark and SoundCloud, let alone the file-sharing networks. And indeed, fans can still access Swift’s music from many of those platforms.

Though none of that explains the pulling of the entire Swift catalogue from certain streaming services. There’s been speculation some kind of catalogue-wide deal with one digital music platform may be incoming, or that somehow all this is linked to Borchetta’s rumoured bid to sell his record company.

Whatever, if you want to be certain that you will definitely be able to listen to Taylor Swift’s at any time you so wish, at least without playing around in grey or otherwise muddy areas of copyright law, you’re going to have to fork out for it. Which probably makes this an annoying point in proceedings to tell you that tickets for the UK leg of Taylor Swift’s world tour are going on sale soon.

Yes, she’ll be over here next June to play some of the songs she doesn’t want you to hear in their recorded form (especially if you’re one of those people who spends the unusually high amount of £120 to listen to music every year). You’ll be able to catch her playing her first ever show in Scotland at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 23 Jun, followed by Manchester Arena the following night, and the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park on 27 Jun.

That leaves, I am obliged to add at this point, a suitable gap in her schedule to play Glastonbury. Though as people who go to Glastonbury pay to access everything the festival has to offer, rather than a specific artist, she might not be so up for performing there.

Anyway, tickets for the Glasgow and Manchester shows will go on sale at 9.30am this Friday, with a pre-sale for American Express customers happening right now. Meanwhile BST tickets will become available at 9am on 10 Nov. Give Taylor your money now, you bastards.