Once Spotify’s most visible critic, pop superstar Taylor Swift recently returned her music to all streaming services as the number of artists to boycott the booming format dwindles.
All of the 27-year-old singer’s music including 1989, her blockbuster last album, appeared on Spotify and other platforms on June 9.
Swift’s management said the move was meant to mark 1989 hitting 10 million sales worldwide and certification that the teen country music prodigy turned pop sensation had sold 100 million singles in the United States.
“Taylor wants to thank her fans by making her entire back catalog available to all streaming services,” it said in a statement.
When she released 1989 in late 2014, Swift refused to put it on Spotify, by far the largest streaming service, and yanked her entire catalogue off it.
Swift accused Spotify of devaluing artists by essentially giving music away for free, pointing to the platform’s advertising-backed tier that gives access to non-subscribers.
The feud brought a defensive reaction from the Swedish company which argued that it was a rare source of growth in the long-beleaguered music industry.
Spotify says it paid back US$5bil to songs’ copyright holders as of September 2016, the last time it updated the figure it had given in response to Swift.
More bad blood with Katy Perry?
But much has changed even in the two and a half years since Swift’s row with Spotify.
Streaming – which offers unlimited, on-demand music online – has soared, led by a growth in paid subscriptions.
Streaming revenue grew worldwide by more than 60% last year alone, according to the IFPI trade body.
Most other major Western artistes who refused to stream their music have relented, including the estates of late pop icon Prince and The Beatles, rock legend Neil Young and country music giant Garth Brooks.
But the timing of Swift’s return to streaming services raises eyebrows – her music went online at the exact moment that fellow pop mega-star Katy Perry released her new album Witness.
The two artistes have a barely concealed rivalry. Perry’s latest album features the song Swish Swish in which she boasts of her success to a rival – presumably Swift – accused of bad-mouthing her.
Swift’s move could potentially hurt Perry in closely watched first-week sales. With significant overlap between their fan bases, some listeners who would have played Witness on repeat may spend time exploring Swift’s music on Spotify instead.
Already with Apple
Swift’s decision also marks a realisation that physical sales or paid downloads of 1989 have passed their peak so long after the release.
The only album to sell better than 1989 in the past few years has been British balladeer Adele’s 25, which she held off streaming services for seven months.
Despite her hostility to Spotify, Swift allowed 1989 to be streamed on Apple Music from the moment the tech giant launched the service in June 2015.
Swift had initially threatened to boycott Apple Music over not paying artistes for streams by listeners on three-month free trial periods. Apple quickly shifted course after Swift’s public reprimand.
While the tech behemoth’s about-face was mostly seen as proof of Swift’s crushing power, some conspiracy-minded music watchers alleged that the entire drama had been staged for publicity reasons.
Artistes who remain firm against streaming their music include English progressive rock pioneers King Crimson, US heartland rocker Bob Seger and experimental metal band Tool. – AFP