Taylor Swift is back…on Spotify, that is. You can probably recall the highly publicized and controversial battle that ensued between Swift and streaming services when all of her content was swiftly pulled from various streaming sites, such as Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer. Starting in 2014, from her self-titled “Taylor Swift” to her latest pop album “1989,” Swift’s multiple masterpieces were no longer available to be conveniently streamed.

Swift’s main motive for taking down her music was due to money. In 2014, Spotify’s stated payouts to artists on their site ranged from $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream. Now, however, everything has changed. Once Swift received some noteworthy accolades for her latest album, her team delivered some eagerly wanted—yet rather unexpected—news.

On June 7, Swift’s management team posted an announcement on Twitter, stating: “In celebration of 1989 selling over 10 Million Albums and the RIAA’s 100 Million Song Certification announcement, Taylor wants to thank her fans by making her entire back catalog available to all streaming services tonight at midnight.” Soon enough, music streamers across the globe were able to begin again and stream the blonde musician’s music. While Swift’s management team claimed that award certifications and album sales were the reason for her return, there’s more to this musical debacle than meets the eye.

What people don’t really know is that Swift’s distributor, the Universal Music Group, etched out a deal with Spotify that allows artists a little more freedom when it comes to releasing music, and offers them more money, too. Part of the deal includes artists allowing their new albums to release exclusively to Premium members for up to two weeks before the actual release, which provides consumers with an incentive to upgrade. Furthermore, music streamed by Premium members brings in more money per stream than songs played with ad-based streaming. Another key factor is that Spotify will be paying Universal Music Group a little less in royalty fees.

Swift’s complicated love story with streaming music has been ongoing, and her choices pave the way for rising artists and the music industry as a whole. Everyone can remember all too well how Swift single-handedly negotiated her way with Apple Music, requesting her own terms for streaming. In a famous 2015 open letter to the tech giant, Swift asked with finesse that artists, producers and writers receive compensation during users’ free three month trial of Apple Music. “This is not about me…This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create,” Swift wrote on her Tumblr page.

Image via Turn Off The Radio

And you know what? Apple Music complied, saying that they “heard her” and would pay artists during the trial period. Swift’s bold actions have helped pave the way for other musicians and have cemented her star status in the lucrative, ever-evolving music industry.

After all this time, however, just why would she come back to the streaming companies that had so publicly wronged her? Well, her move indicates a resounding shift in making money in the music industry. Yes, Swift’s many album sales have turned over quite a profit, but statistics show that album sales have declined, whilst streaming has become the primary source of income for musicians in 2016.

Last year, streaming services raked in 51 percent of overall revenue for the music industry. However, what with the rapid rise of streaming and the growing rates of piracy, album sales as a whole have declined, regardless of Swift’s success. In general, there is less consumption of album sales than in the nineties, where revenue from albums had its historic peak. For artists like Swift, streaming is a compromise, allowing revenue for musicians, despite fewer album sales among younger age demographics. Swift’s return acknowledges this growing shift in technology and further cements that streaming is the future of music.

Touting over 140 million active users and fifty million Premium members, Spotify has quite a lot to offer the country-turned-pop songstress. With roughly 40 percent of Spotify users being millennials (who make up a large part of Swift’s devoted fan base), there was a lot of incentive for Swift to make her grand return. Swift is no meek musician, however. As an iconic artist with plenty of hit singles and many regular listeners as well, Swift has a hefty amount of leverage to bargain with.

And how are artists reacting to Taylor Swift’s comeback? Some musicians still choose to stay off Spotify, such as Garth Brooks and the late Prince, while others, such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé, are selective with the content that they allow to be released onto particular streaming platforms.

On a more pop-cultured note, Katy Perry, who has been part of an ongoing feud (one could say it was bad blood) with Swift, released her fifth and latest album, “Witness,” the very day Swift returned to streaming platforms. Was the timing of Swift’s return merely a coincidence? I think not (but that’s merely speculation, for now).

Regardless of the monetary technicalities and the celebrity catfights, millions of fans worldwide rejoiced at the return of Swift’s discography to different music platforms. Having already been back on the streaming services for a few weeks, the music mogul’s songs have millions of hits already on Spotify.

Although listeners once believed Swift may have never, ever gotten back together with streaming services, they can now rest easy knowing that she’s back. Whether you love her or hate her, you can’t deny that she has changed the music industry and is (probably) here to stay, stay, stay.

Writer Profile

Christina Vazquez

University of Central Florida
English & Political Science

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