Anyone hoping for Taylor Swift’s back catalogue to reappear on Spotify soon should probably avoid her latest interview with Vanity Fair, in which she unflatteringly compares the streaming service’s response to her criticism last year with Apple’s approach in 2015.
“Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about,” said Swift, referring to the company’s recent u-turn over royalty payouts during the three-month trial of its new Apple Music service.
But then the jab at Spotify: “And I found it really ironic that the multi-billion-dollar company reacted to criticism with humility, and the start-up with no cash flow reacted to criticism like a corporate machine.”
Ouch. Obligatory ‘she doesn’t mention Spotify by name in this interview extract’ caveat goes here, although a ‘who else do you think she’s talking about, eh?’ caveat to the caveat is also useful.
There appears to have been no thaw in the frost between Swift and Spotify since she removed her back catalogue from the service last year in protest at its refusal to allow her to window music to premium subscribers only.
Spotify’s on-the-record response to Swift’s decision came in the form of a blog post by CEO Daniel Ek defending the company’s freemium model, although that is clearly not the sole source of friction between the two.
In the Vanity Fair interview, Swift also gives a few more details of her Tumblr post that helped to persuade Apple to pay royalties during Apple Music’s free trial, noting that the phrase “zero percent compensation to rights holders” in the contract sent to musician friends spurred her to stay up until 4am composing her thoughts.
“Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll write a song and I can’t sleep until I finish it, and it was like that with the letter,” she said. “My fears were that I would be looked at as someone who just whines and rants about this thing that no one else is really ranting about.”
Is Swift’s relationship with Spotify irreparable? On one hand, the streaming service doesn’t appear to have suffered from the removal of her catalogue: it had 50 million active users including 12.5 million subscribers at the time of the pullout, and has since grown to 75 million active users and 20 million subscribers.
On the other hand, it’s still a hole Spotify would surely dearly love to fill, albeit not (yet) at the expense of relenting on its policy (yes, with the odd exception) of making all music available to free and premium users alike. Although Swift’s latest comments make us wonder whether even such a change would be enough, now.
If only there was a suitable song to illustrate this relationship. Oh, wait: