(This story was originally published in InQuire Live)
Its 4:30 on a Friday morning and I have work in an hour and a half. After a couple of snoozes of my alarm I realise the only way I will properly wake up is if I look into the cold void that is my phone screen. The backlight that forces my eyes open. That’s when I see it at the top of my Facebook newsfeed. ‘TAYLOR SWIFT’S ‘REPUTATION’ IS OUT NOW. LET THE GAMES BEGIN’. My day has got better as my early start at work can be redeemed by the sound of Taylor’s voice. I open my Apple music but there’s no signs of the album there. I already know the answer but in my head all I think is ‘Don’t do this to me Taylor’. I close the Apple Music app and head to iTunes.
It's not news that Taylor Swift’s relationship with streaming companies has been tenuous. After 2014, when she removed her entire back catalogue from Spotify, Taylor then took on Apple Music writing them an open letter that made them provide higher royalties to artists. Although having since put her music back on both services, the lead single from ‘Reputation’, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, shows her stealing money from the wall street of streaming services in the music video.
‘Why would you buy it on iTunes?’ asked my friend. She agrees with Miley Cyrus that people like Taylor have far too much money already to be complaining about low royalties. Miley herself released an entire album for free on Soundcloud to iterate this point but to be honest, will anyone remember ‘Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz’ as a defining moment in her career? I think not. One might argue the free accounts on streaming sites such as Spotify and Soundcloud allow those who can’t afford paying for an album to enjoy an artist’s music. Miley herself has been a big supporter and philanthropist for homeless people and charities.
Maybe it’s the die hard Swift fan in me, maybe it’s the Arts Student in me who would want my works to be paid for properly, but I was at a point where I would willingly pay £10.99 for Taylor’s album. Recently, in her Netflix movie ‘Five Foot Two’, Lady Gaga shows her annoyance at her album “haemorrhaging” all over the internet illegally being downloaded 300,000 times. “F*** it! Let them download my record” she states as she prepares for her MRI scan. You can’t help feeling sorry for her when you’ve spent the last hour watching her work so hard on ‘Joanne’ while facing a debilitating illness. While artist’s still get paid on streaming websites, Taylor’s sentiments are echoed within this.
Taylor’s decision not to make her music available on every platform is not much different to Beyoncé’s and Kanye’s decisions to only use Tidal at points and like both, so much work, genius and artistry has been put into their album’s to arguably warrant paying for it. While a successful, powerful and undeniably wealthy artist herself, Taylor’s arguments against low royalties on streaming sites often focus on supporting upcoming and smaller artists through her own ability to make a change rather than increasing her own wealth.
Besides she may release ‘Reputation’ to streaming services in a couple of months. Or not. Who knows with Taylor Swift.