By: Katie Albertino – Communication
Yet another ex- was added to Taylor Swift’s ‘long list of ex-lovers’: Spotify.
This is because Swift removed her entire catalog of music from the service.
We should have known there was trouble when Swift’s op-ed piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal this past July.
Swift shared her thoughts about the future of music. She stated “Art is important and rare, it’s valuable and should be paid for.” She continued by explicitly saying, “Music should not be free.”
Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, responded to Swift’s departure from the streaming service saying, “[Spotify’s] whole reason for existence is to help fans find music and help artists connect with fans through a platform that protects them from piracy and pays them for their amazing work.”
Ek claimed that Spotify paid “more than $2 billion to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists.” Ek mentioned that this was $2 billion more than piracy would have given the artists and songwriters. He also noted that “top artists like Taylor Swift are on track to exceed $6 million a year” through streaming on Spotify.
Swift says that her music is art, which Ek and I completely agree with, but let’s take the idea of art, a very perception-dependent concept, out of this situation for a second.
Think of Swift as a brand, similar to Disney, Nike, Ford, Oreo or Coach. It’s a product and the main objective is to sell said product.
Would these brands sell their products for anything less than they thought was deserved? Would Ford sell a car for $5,000, when they knew they could get $20,000 for it? Probably not.
They’ve created and established their brands, and now they are able to profit from the hard work. But how the public values the product is also important: the consumer has to determine if they are going to buy into the brand.
Disney can charge obscene amounts of money to enter their various amusement parks because people value their brand and will pay an arm and a leg to experience “the wonderful world of Disney.” Whereas, a brand such as Marlboro could falter as anti-tobacco campaigns have helped erode the public perception of the brand’s value and smoking in general.
Swift’s brand is similar to these situations. Now that she has established herself and gained a dedicated fan base who values her work, she can take her brand to the next level.
By limiting access to her album, she is exercising a very powerful marketing strategy of supply and demand. For example, Air Jordan shoes are exclusively sold through Nike. Swift is selling her album in a similarly exclusive manner. Her music is available through limited channels: you can pay for the album in Target or Walmart stores or through iTunes.
Swift’s move may seem shocking and absolutely absurd at first, but it makes sense if you think about it. The reason it seems so outlandish is due to our current idea of how music should be released. This past decade, people have acquired their music online; free or purchased. The idea that music won’t just be given to us for free is a different and frustrating concept because of current practices.
However, Swift is supporting the value of her brand by releasing her album in a very “old-school” manner, like the artists who thrived before the Internet, before iPods were popular and main factors of the music industry. Back then, artists sold over a million albums within a week. There was only one way to obtain the music – buy the album. And this is how Swift sold over 1.2 million copies of her new album, “1989,” during its first week of release.
Swift’s decision has the potential to not only change the way her brand is working, but how the music industry functions.
Swift is bringing back the mystique and anticipation that used to accompany album releases. For instance, during our parents’ generation (and our early childhood), people awaited an album and ran to the store the minute it was released. Then they listened to and enjoyed the album in its entirety.
Will the music industry pendulum swing the other way, thanks to Swift? Will we see more artists begin to use these retro marketing techniques? Only time will tell. This process certainly seems to have worked nicely for Swift.
However, I think it is worth noting that Spotify is a great platform for newer artists. They gain exposure and can be heard by millions. It’s a good starting point for a new brand, like a lemonade stand is a good beginning for a juice product.
So, is it going to be forever or is this just a phase? Ek can tell her how much money she’s losing, but that won’t make her stay.
She’s got a long list of reasons that tell us to buy because she knows we love the music, as well as her brand.