On Taylor Swift, Spotify and Me

“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. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” –source

I don’t really listen to or think that much about Taylor Swift, (no particular reason, I just don’t) and this quote is old news, but I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of value she raises. I don’t think the fault for devaluation lands squarely on Spotify or any one listener (myself included), but it is, from my bombastic/genuine point of view, a cultural warning sign that we denigrate the value of the arts to the extent that we do. I think it’s a big deal that someone in her position is taking a stand, regardless for whom she is speaking.

At the risk of revealing where on the totem pole I currently squat, I will say that in order to pay for my subscription to (the ad-free version of) Spotify, my songs would have to be streamed more than* 1,574 times per month. That’s not a HUGE number of plays and many artists get a whole lot more than that. But I’m still at the level where every 100 streams, no, every SINGLE stream I’m REALLY happy that people are listening to the music I’ve created.

By the same token, I currently feel a bit obliged to “undervalue” my music and make it available on Spotify because I am anxious to have it be discover-able. I don’t know where this leaves me, ethically. I still feel really certain that a certain someone finds my stuff and feels something kindred and strong. Valuable. And I can’t think of a better way to make that happen. I’d rather have people listening to what I’ve created, which took thousands and thousands of hours to create, than to have it sit in a nostalgia box somewhere.

Spotify’s rebuttal seemed to be basically “better to get a little money than nothing at all”, but I just don’t see it ever deciding to pay any more out than the very bare minimum. It’s a corporate entity, not a philanthropist organization, which is fine. Spotify is probably also just as much a demographic research pool as Facebook is, ie. the “art” of music is very much secondary to its primary goal of market research.

But I do think that Spotify can do much better. I do think that music has value, and I do laud Ms. Swift.

*that’s at the highest potential rate that I’ve seen in my payouts, which hovers around $0.00635 per stream, sometimes it is half that, and I couldn’t tell you why. Also, commercials interrupting music is disgusting, I don’t care if that sounds pretentious.

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