Monday, November 24, 2014

Taylor Swift and Spotify

I remember seeing Taylor Swift for the first time on a magazine cover and thinking that she was oh-so beautiful. I've always been a big fan or hers because I loved her music and personality. Lately, however, with her position on Spotify, I have to say that I admire her less.

To be clear, I still like her music, but "Just because we like something doesn’t mean it’s above reproach. We should practice turning a critical eye on the media we consume, as it gives us a chance to view our own thoughts through the lens of pop culture." This is from a Jenny Trout blog post about Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass, and I think it's important to apply to all issues in social media.

Firstly, Taylor Swift's statement: "Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for." I disagree. Yes, music is art. Yes, art is important. But art is not particularly rare or valuable, nor should it be (going by the first definition of valuable: "worth a great deal of money"). In the early days of art, namely the Renaissance, wealthy leaders commissioned art to memorialize themselves for the future, but since then, art has evolved to be for the people, by the people. Anyone can make art, and anyone can consume it. Her album sold 1.7 million copies in 2 weeks, for $9.99 at Target. That's a lot (not very rare), and not overwhelmingly expensive (not too valuable). If her meaning is to be interpreted through the second definition of valuable, "extremely useful or important," any commodities have to be paid for anyway, but you don't argue that groceries are "valuable" and "rare" just because they are important and worth money.

Secondly, the value of Spotify is through its means of exposure. I found many of her songs from Spotify radio, songs that I would never have listened to otherwise, such as "Never Grow Up" and "Dear John". Spotify ads also promote new songs. "Rude" by Magic! was a song that I heard through a Spotify ad long before it was immensely popular.

However, the most important feature of Spotify for artists (in my opinion) is that it allows instant access to an artist's entire catalog of songs. I might have thought of Martin Garrix as a one hit wonder with his song "Animals" but while listening to his song on Spotify, I was able to go to his page and queue several of his other songs, making me a fan of him as an artist, not just for one song.

To me, Spotify is a library. I can get any book at a library for free, but I cannot own it. In regards to art, you pay for the convenience of having it available, to listen or enjoy it without any interference whatsoever. There are some books that I really like, therefore, even though I can get it at the library, I will buy a copy for myself. The same goes for music. Even though I can listen to Lorde's album online, I plan on buying it when I'm able to have that kind of free spending money because it is meaningful to me and I want to own it. I don't have the money right now, and I don't believe that music is only for people who can afford it. That kind of capitalist, elitist thinking really bothers me, because it implies that poor people should not be able to enjoy the same richness of art and life that a rich person can.

When I make a piece of art that I put my heart and soul into, I still post it online on my art blog because I want people to see it and enjoy it, without having to pay. Though they can look at it online, they cannot sell it without my permission, because that would be making a profit off of my work. They can download it for their own personal enjoyment, or use it in public space giving credit to the artist. They can pay for a print of it to hang on their wall, or I can sell them a print of it if they really like it. The point is, that Taylor Swift isn't making music solely for people to enjoy anymore, she's making it to break records and earn more money than she could ever spend by herself. I understand that she's doing it as a career and not just a hobby, but she is already extremely well of, and the amount she makes through Spotify is probably more than a fifth of what most people make in a year. I think this quote from Adam Levine in a Buzzfeed article says it best:

“Music is for everyone,” Levine said. “I don’t care how anybody obtains it as long as they get it and enjoy and love it.”
I did love Taylor Swift, and I was going to buy her music once I had a chance, but if I don't keep listening to it in the meantime, I'll probably forget about it after a while. Now I will never know if I want to buy her new album because I haven't heard it in its entirety, and I probably never will. I know that my decision or opinion won't matter to her in the long run, because there are still tons more of her fans that can and will pay for her music, but I am disappointed with her choice in this matter, and it will take a lot for me to support her as avidly as I had before. ◊

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