Billy Bragg Has an Opinion on Taylor Swift (And She Has a Response)

Lindsay Hood

By Lindsay Hood

on 11.18.14 in News

Here’s two terms you’re probably sick of hearing — Taylor Swift and Spotify. Ever since the pop star decided to pull her catalogue from the streaming service, we’ve been subjected to a constant barrage of opinions; both in support of the singer’s decision and those who believe it’s not as lofty of an ideal as Swift claims.

Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek has commented at length about Swift’s move, saying, “We’re connecting artists to fans they would never have otherwise found, and we’re paying them for every single listen. We’re not just streaming, we’re mainstreaming now, and that’s good for music makers and music lovers around the world.” Swift quickly released an app with American Express that provided a 360 degree experience of the video for “Blank Space.” Oh yes, and she also sold over a million copies of 1989 in its first week of sales.

Meanwhile Sony Music finance chief Kevin Kelleher told The Wall Street Journal that Swift’s move has prompted a lot of discussion over whether they should allow other artists’ music on streaming platforms. Voice coaches Blake Shelton and Adam Levine also weighed in during a recent visit to Buzzfeed, with Shelton supporting the decision and Levine claiming, “Music should be able to be wherever it is. That’s how I feel.”

Today, in a very lengthy Facebook post, singer Billy Bragg claimed to have seen Swift’s albums on YouTube’s new Music Key subscription services; which launched today and is currently invite-only. In full, Bragg said:

What a shame that Taylor Swift’s principled stand against those who would give her music away for free has turned out to be nothing more than a corporate power play. On pulling her music from Spotify recently, she made a big issue of the fact that the majority of the streaming service’s users listen to her tracks for nothing rather than signing up to the subscription service.

“I don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free” she said in a statement to Yahoo last week.

These worthy sentiments have been somewhat undermined by Swift making her new album and back catalogue available on Google’s new Music Key streaming service…..which also offers listeners a free service alongside a premium subscription tier.

Given that this year is the first to fail to produce a new million selling album, I can understand Taylor Swift wanting to maximise her opportunities with the new record – and it worked: she shifted 1.28m copies of 1989 in the first week of sale.

But she should just be honest with her fans and say “sorry, but Sergey Brin gave me a huge amount of money to be the headline name on the marquee for the launch of You Tube Music Key and so I’ve sold my soul to Google”.

If Ms Swift was truly concerned about perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free, she should be removing her material from You Tube, not cosying up to it. The de facto biggest streaming service in the world, with all the content available free, You Tube is the greatest threat to any commercially based streaming service.

You might ask yourself why Google are setting up a commercial streaming service that will ultimately have to compete with their own You Tube behemoth? My hunch is that they are following a ‘Starbucks strategy’: it doesn’t matter if your own coffee shops on every corner are competing with one another, so long as they ultimately put all of your rivals out of business.

Google are going after Spotify and Taylor Swift has just chosen sides. That’s her prerogative as a savvy businesswoman – but please don’t try to sell this corporate power play to us as some sort of altruistic gesture in solidarity with struggling music makers.

But in a statement to NME, Swift’s representatives claimed, “Taylor Swift has had absolutely no discussion or agreement of any kind with Google’s new music streaming service.”

When Bragg saw the response via Stereogum’s post, he promptly responded by tweeting an article from Wired that claimed to have seen “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” on the new YouTube service.

He then followed up with a piece on the International Business Times that claimed Swift’s music would appear on Music Key, even though no artists have formally aligned themselves with the service just yet.

What does this all mean? Basically, we’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the days to come.

Guess we need to… oh, you get it.