Taylor Swift at war – with Spotify

Emily Yahr (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Looks like Taylor Swift has another disgruntled ex. On Monday morning, Spotify sent out a string of heartbroken, pleading tweets, mourning that the pop star asked that her entire song library be removed from the popular music streaming site.

Spotify tweeted: “We <3 @taylorswift13 but she asked us to pull her music off Spotify. 40MM of us say “Stay Stay Stay.”

It was the first in a series of tweets directed at Swift, and it was a little pathetic. But who isn’t a wreck after a break-up? Plus, Swift’s bold move has potentially dangerous consequences for the streaming service. Spotify counts on international phenomenons like Swift to make their tunes available for the masses – that’s how the service has collected 40 million users, a quarter of whom have paid subscriptions. Otherwise, listeners could think twice about using the service – or more importantly, shelling out $10 per month for a premium subscription.

There’s no question that this is a savvy maneuver for Swift, looking to fuel more sales of her new album “1989,” which is poised to sell more than a million copies in its first week. It’s common sense: Making a product scarce means people will be essentially forced to pay for it. But could other artists really follow suit in challenging the music streaming culture?

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The short answer: No, probably not. Swift is in a unique position compared to most artists, who don’t necessarily have the luxury to withhold their music. If a lesser star decided to pull all of his tunes from Spotify, Pandora or any other streaming site, listeners might not care enough to look for it. They would either a) find it through a myriad of illegal ways or b) forget it altogether.

But Swift at this moment in her career is not only unforgettable, her fiercely loyal global fan base reacts with shock to the notion of accessing her music illegally – what, and ruin their girl’s years of hard work?

Another reason why most singers can’t say no to streaming services is that these days, exposure is more important than anything. Streaming music may be free to the listener, but it leads to word of mouth and as a result, ticket sales. That’s essential for many acts.

Spotify also boasts that it has paid $1 billion in royalties to artists and labels ($500 million in 2013 alone). But the fomula-driven payments to artists amount to about $0.006 to $0.0084 per song stream. While the artist gets compensated – the company says they pay 70 percent of all revenue back to the music makers themselves – that’s not quite worth it for a multi-millionaire like Swift. Still, Spotify is very vocal about getting Swift back.

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“We hope she’ll change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone,” Spotify said in an open letter about Swift on Monday. “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.”

But anyone who read Swift’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal this summer about the future of the music industry should know she’s not a fan of sharing her music for free, no matter what the venue. Sorry, Spotify, you should have been ready for this one.

“The value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work,” she wrote. “And the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace.”