Much of the debate surrounding Taylor Swift pulling her music from Spotify has centered on just that—Spotify. But Swift might be pulling a bit of sleight-of-hand by quietly adding her music to YouTube’s new subscription-based music service as she decries the competition, a move that was loudly called out by outspoken English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.
Bragg posted a lengthy criticism of Swift’s statements that she was simply standing up for musicians’ right to get paid for their work on Facebook Tuesday, pointing out that she had made her back catalog available on Music Key, which has a similar tiered structure to Spotify.
“[S]he 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’,” he said, adding, “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.”
Swift’s publicity team quickly shot back with a denial that the singer had an exclusive deal with Google, but Bragg remained skeptical, posting a link to an International Business Times article about the singer on Twitter. This led to accusations that Bragg has also chosen sides in favor of Spotify—his music is available on the streaming service, and he hosts a “talking playlist” show where he discusses tracks on playlists he assembles specially for Spotify. Bragg explained his position in another extended Faceboook post, where he basically proclaimed Spotify the lesser of two evils:
As artists, rather than resist them, I believe it is in our long-term interest to engage with the streaming services …[Spotify] will let an artist see how many plays they have had and show them how much they have paid to their record company for those plays. The artist can then look at how much they have received from their label and do the math.
Compare this to the deal that the independent labels have just signed with You Tube Music Key - except you can’t, because all deals and negotiations with Google are covered by non-disclosure agreements. We won’t know how many plays we’ve had on Music Key, nor how much Google paid our labels for that use - we’ll just have to take whatever we receive and be thankful.
I believe artists deserve better treatment than that. That’s why I often find myself defending Spotify - for all their faults, they have set the bar high in terms of transparency and we should be demanding the same from other streaming services.
Swift herself has remained silent throughout all of this. But with the Great Streaming Debate of 2014 making such strange bedfellows, we wouldn’t be surprised if Calvin Johnson gets into a Twitter war with Megan Trainor sometime within the next month or so.