Polarized responses are always typical for anything Taylor Swift says or does; you either hate her guts for being a boy loving pop-diva or you love her for all her awkward dancing and cat-loving antics. The same held true when she removed all of her music off Spotify and other streaming services last week.
Though I have to admit my own disappointment that I’ll now have to dig out my now-years-old copies of her physical albums, Taylor brings up a completely valid point that continues to be overlooked by the harsh criticism and personal attacks made against her. In all seriousness: When was the last time anyone actually stood up for allowing people to work for free?
A major problem with the industry may be illegal streaming, but the concept of people feeling entitled to free music is worse, by far.
San Francisco is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour, but there are artists and musicians being paid much less than that for everything that goes into each album. What many of us actually don’t know about Spotify, the free music subscription service that young college students like you and me have grown to love, is that its model is extremely flawed and in need of so much improvement. Spotify claims that 70 percent of revenue goes to artists, but even if this is true, the payouts for the artists are pathetic — a fraction of one single cent per play. These numbers might scrap up and amount to something for the artists who chart the top lists, but for most, this is not the case.
Curbing music piracy is almost an impossible obstacle to tackle now considering that online streaming is 41 percent of Americans’ choice for music, and I’m not naive enough to believe that anything Taylor Swift can do will actually solve it. I’m pretty sure that the music industry has suffered from some sort of music piracy since the days of the mixed tape. The introduction of file sharing programs and websites has caused the number of both physical and online albums purchased to consistently drop every year, so it is unsurprising that artists could feel pressured to put their music on Spotify and offer their work for pennies as opposed to nothing.
Whenever we choose to download music from third parties illegally, we know what we’re doing is in the darker gray areas of wrong and even then, it’s a personal choice whenever we choose do it. But by demanding artists’ albums to be available to us for free on Spotify, we are supporting the selfish idea that we are legally entitled to the fruit of other individuals’ work and that we should not have to pay for it.
Artists may not be able to stop music piracy, but they shouldn’t have to stand by subscription services that believe paying artists means that a song is worth less than a penny. For now, Taylor Swift may be the first artist to get flak for not offering her albums on Spotify, but she very well, might just be following a new trend that Queen Bey and The Beatles set before her.