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Platform Boycott | 2014-2017

From 2014 to 2017, Taylor pulled all her music from Spotify, where she was one of the service’s most popular artists, after she had publicly criticized multiple times that artists only receive a tiny royalty per song play from the platform. She had previously also refused to release her album RED (2012) on Spotify, stating that “valuable things should be paid for. It is my opinion that music should not be free.”
Taylor is not just one of the biggest pop stars in the world: She is also its most successful, prolific, and recognizable contemporary songwriter. That is a designation she has proven she cares about. She can make hundreds of millions touring as an A-list performer, but it still makes sense that a prodigiously talented young woman who was written off for years on the basis of her diaristic songwriting and frivolous interest in glitter would transition into adult pop stardom in part on a platform of business savvy and semi-empowering rhetoric about the value of her own labor. She is uniquely positioned to speak authoritatively on this issue as a public-facing brand and a behind-the-scenes creative.
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Music Is Art, And Art Has Value

Taylor is one of the few superstars with a big enough fan base to have been able to boycott Spotify without damaging their brand or overall sales. Before officially pulling her music from streaming services, she wrote in a now-infamous essay for The Wall Street Journal from July 2014:

«Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is.»

Months later, she removed her entire back catalogue from Spotify. Her first five albums weren’t available from November 2014 to July 2017. She explained her decision, saying: “All I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free… I thought, ‘I will try this; I’ll see how it feels.’ It didn’t feel right to me.”

Taylor’s move of removing her music from the platform was a huge loss for Spotify. Executives tried winning her back by writing her a pun-filled public note and promoting a playlist called “What to Play While Taylor’s Away,” convinced that she would come back quickly. She didn’t.

Spotify Begged Her to Return

Taylor stood by her decision for three years. In the meantime, she promoted Spotify’s main competitor, Apple Music, who compensates artists more fairly. It was only in June 2017 when her entire catalogue was once again made available on Spotify. It was a “Thank You” to her fans after her fifth album, 1989 (2014) crossed the 10 million sales mark worldwide. Following the news, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek appeared on CBS This Morning in late 2017 and touched upon the “Taylor vs. Spotify” saga:

«I should’ve done a much better job communicating this, so I take full ownership for that. I went to Nashville many, many times to talk to [Taylor’s] team, spent more time explaining the model, why streaming mattered. And the great news is I think she saw how streaming was growing. I think she saw the fans were asking for it. So eventually when the new album came out, she came to Stockholm and spent some time there, figuring out a way that made sense for her.»

Taylor became a streaming giant soon after her return to Spotify. Nowadays, she is the most streamed female artist on Spotify of all time, having set multiple records on the platform.
Announcement of Return