Taylor Swift v Spotify: back catalogue removed from streaming services

Taylor Swift

All of Taylor Swift’s albums have been removed from Spotify and other streaming music services, in an escalation of the artist’s previous policy of “windowing” her new album releases.

When Swift’s new album 1989 was released on 27 October, it was not available to stream on Spotify and its rivals, following the same policy used for its predecessor Red.

As of today, though, that album and Swift’s entire back catalogue have been removed. While Swift and her label Big Machine Music have yet to comment, Spotify broke the news in a blog post.

“We hope she’ll change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone,” said the company.

“We believe fans should be able to listen to music wherever and whenever they want, and that artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy. That’s why we pay nearly 70% of our revenue back to the music community.”

Spotify added that nearly 16 million of its 40 million active users had played Swift’s songs in the last 30 days, while her tracks had been added to more than 19 million playlists on its service.

According to play-count statistics on Spotify this morning, Red’s tracks had been played more than 260m times on the service since the album was made available to stream in May 2013, eight months after it first went on sale.

When 1989 was windowed, Spotify informed its users that “The artist or their representatives have decided not to release this album on Spotify. We are working on it and hope they will change their mind soon.”

Shortly after, the firm’s head of public policy, Jonathan Prince, tweeted in a similar style, asking the artist not to “let down” her fans.

Now those 40 million Spotifiers won’t be able to play, play, play any of her songs unless Big Machine – which the Guardian has contacted for a comment – decides to put it back on.

This has happened before with a high-profile artist: Paul McCartney’s back catalogue was removed from streaming services in 2010, before being made available again in 2012.

One factor in the removal is likely to have been the record-breaking first-week sales of 1989, which in the US looks like it could overtake the 1.319m copies Britney Spears’ debut sold in its first week. That would make Swift’s album the highest selling first week by a female solo artist in US history.

The removal comes days after the New York Post reported that Big Machine’s owner Scott Borchetta was looking to sell the label for more than $200m. The report claimed that Swift has only one album left on her contract with the company, but also that her family owns a stake in the business.

It remains to be seen how today’s news might affect Big Machine’s valuation, although if the result is a bump in sales for Swift’s older albums – Apple’s iTunes store is currently discounting Red and 2010’s Speak Now to £4.99 each – could drive the price higher.

The digital marketing for 1989 has already sparked controversy among British fans of Taylor Swift, who complained that one track, released via Apple’s iTunes store in the run-up to the album’s release elsewhere in the world, was withheld in the UK.

“To all my wonderful UK fans, I realise that you are not yet able to get ‘Out Of The Woods’ due to a new strategy my record label is working on in the UK,” she explained in a post on Tumblr.

“My good friend Ed Sheeran utilised the same strategy with ‘One’ in the UK and he seemed very happy with the feedback from his fans. But, ultimately, it’s down to you. Let me know.”

Those same fans will now be letting Swift know their opinion on the removal of her back catalogue, for better or worse.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Alex Hern and Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Monday 3rd November 2014 16.08 Europe/London

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