It’s Taylor Swift’s world, but she’s selling music


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It’s Taylor Swift’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

The current name on every timeline and Tumblr dashboard — other than Alex from Target, of course — Swift’s huge sale numbers for her fifth album “1989,” which released Oct. 27, have made her the subject of endless discussions and predictions of what comes next.

Though several commenters mentioned Swift’s, or her label’s, rather, decision to withhold “1989” from Spotify streaming capabilities, discussions typically determined she would do as other artists have and make the album available a week or so later. Sam Smith, for example, held back his debut album “In the Lonely Hour” for a time to push early album sales.

Other artists (Adele, Coldplay, Beyoncé) have done the same, all releasing their music to the streaming service after what the New York Times calls a “a ‘window’ of exclusivity for retailers that sell downloads and CDs, which yield much higher royalty rates.”

But Swift’s label, Big Machine Label Group, took it one step further, asking Spotify to remove Swift’s entire music collection from its library late last week. And by Monday it was gone.

When Spotify users attempt to access Swift’s music through the site, a message appears stating, “The artist or their representatives have decided not to release this album on Spotify. We are working on it, and hope they will change their mind soon.”

The streaming service, which has 40 million global users, said it pays almost 70 percent of its revenue back to the music community.

“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,” said a statement from Spotify on a website blog post titled “On Taylor Swift’s Decision To Remove Her Music from Spotify.”

As much as we all enjoy having access to virtually any music at any time, the reality is album sales have plummeted. Swift’s album has countered those numbers as “1989” is projected to sell more than 1.3 million copies (based on Billboard numbers through Saturday), more than any other one-week sales from a female and more than any other album in a single week.

Swift and Big Machine have managed to do what no artist has been able to do since Beyoncé’s surprise album in December 2013 — which could happen again in the next few weeks if rumors of a Volume II become reality. They have actually sold albums, and a ridiculous number of albums at that.

The fact that potentially 40 million people who want to hear Swift’s music now have to purchase the album to do so is an interesting step toward pushing sales more than streaming. It is a tactic that would more than likely backfire for an artist not as big as Swift or Beyoncé or even Sam Smith. But for the major artists with almost guaranteed great music ,people will feel not just the desire but the need to listen to, perhaps Big Machine is onto something.

People who subscribe to streaming services do so because they have access to more music, good and bad, for one standard price or for free with advertising. If the big names in the music business want to push full album sales, there isn’t really a better way to do so than to force people to buy the music to hear it.

Swift’s album was so well-marketed, people needed to hear it. And it was so well-contained — with the exception of a leak before its release — it has been kept, for the most part, off of streaming blogs and YouTube. The only way for people to hear the music everyone else is talking about is to buy the album.

As much as it would hinder those of us who make up Spotify’s 40 million users, big names in the music industry should consider Swift’s method as a way to boost album sales and to force listeners to spend more on music.