Wednesday 12 November 2014

Users In The Stream, That Is What We Are

[Inspired by none other than Taylor Swift and her good friend Spotify]

Disclaimer: I truly believe that any artist of any medium has the right to do what they want with their art. That being said...

Let me set the scene:
NEWSFLASH: TAYLOR SWIFT HAS REMOVED HER ENTIRE BACK CATALOGUE FROM SPOTIFY and the music industry is in absolute uproar about it. It's a dying industry already, Taylor, how could you do this to us?! There seem to be two clear sides forming around this debacle. Side one - I pay for Spotify and I am entitled to use the service to listen to Taylor Swift and who ever else's music as much as I like. Side two - Taylor can do what she wants and if she doesn't want her music being given away then that's not the way it has to be. I've compiled A LOT of articles from various sources surrounding the matter and I'd like for us all to take a look.

Obsessed with Spotify
Whilst the world flaps about loving and/or hating Spotify, everyone is ignoring every other streaming platform in existence. It's no secret that I'm a paid Deezer subscriber. Deezer may only have half the number of paid subscribers that Spotify boasts, but these well over five million users across a whopping 180 territories must stand for something! Rhapsody also boasts over two million paying subscribers across 32 countries. Both of these platforms and their users have also lost out on all of Taylor Swift's music. So from now on, unless referencing other articles, we shall refer to streaming platforms and not just goddamn Spotify. Another fairly important thing to note is that Swift's catalogue hasn't been removed from all streaming services. All of her albums are still available on platforms that offer her music to their premium tier subscribers only.

Are we surprised?
This whole holding back from streaming platforms facade isn't new for Swifty, in fact, her previous album 'Red' was held back for around six months after it was released. So are we surprised about what some may call a nice little publicity stunt? Honestly, yes. At the time of single 'Shake It Off's removal from Spotify in particular (*sigh*) the debut track from Swift's new album would have earned something around $84,000 across the globe according to Music Ally's calculations. I see you cynics out there, no of course streaming isn't right for every user or for every artist, but when you're a worldwide superstar like Taylor Swift you might as well buy into it. At this stage there's very little to lose.

Supporting streaming
Personally I believe that streaming is a no-brainer regardless of the number of releases an artist has put out or how many countries a band has toured in. The movement is absolutely huge and has benefits to all even though the benefits may be slightly different. For unsigned artists, it's that discoverability (now officially a word). The ability for anyone anywhere on the planet to simply stumble across your music is priceless. At that stage, you're not going to be earning much more than around a penny per stream (if you're lucky) but earning a new fan who might stick with you for a lifetime is so much more valuable. For the Taylor Swift's of the business there's a clear financial benefit. Yes, each download is worth more than each stream, but the sheer volume of streams is much larger. Also, what's to say that someone wouldn't stream the album, love it, and then want to buy it physically or download it as well?

It's what you do with it
Different people use streaming services for entirely different purposes. Personally, I use Deezer as a sampler platform. The ability to listen to and sample albums without forking out £10 or so for each one is incredibly beneficial especially with this old blog thing in tow. I'm still a firm believer in the whole CD thing and if I love an album after streaming it, I'll purchase a physical copy. Others use streaming purely for discovery; to some, the 'similar artists' features are a godsend. And then of course those dedicated streaming platform users, of which a growing percentage are paid subscribers.

Streaming isn't free. It never has been. Users either pay a monthly subscription or are subjected to countless adverts throughout playback. I think this is where Miss Swift and others in her boat are getting it wrong. For me personally (at work) and for much bigger labels like Kobalt, Spotify alone is a large earner compared to many download platforms. You might not like streaming but regardless of your position in the industry you can't deny that it's growing at a phenomenal rate and shows zero sign of slowing down. Maybe we'll see Taylor's music reappear on streaming services at some point next year, maybe we won't, but until we do I think it's pretty clear that she's the one missing out here, not us.

Do you think streaming is as beneficial for everyone as I do? Or do you think that Taylor Swift and her label are right to have removed her entire catalogue from the majority of streaming platforms? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this, you might also like my post on windowing releases: Online Stores Are On My Back


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