(By TOM SYKES | Published on March 15, 2017 for thedailybeast.com)
Tidal, make way for ‘Swifties.’
Pop superstar Taylor Swift’s well-documented feud with Spotify saw her pulling her entire back catalogue from the streaming service, but now she is positioning herself to be able to strike back at the music provider where it hurts—by launching her own rival streaming service.
According to TMZ, Swift has filed documents giving her the right to brand a website “featuring non-downloadable multimedia content in the nature of audio recordings.” As TMZ notes, this sounds very much like a traditional streaming service. She plans to call the website “Swifties.”
Swift fell out with Spotify—which pays artists fractions of a cent for each stream but is still struggling to achieve profitability—after the service refused to restrict her output to paying subscribers only. Swift, who has sold more than 30 million albums, was one of Spotify’s most popular artists at the time of her withdrawal, with 25 percent of listeners having streamed her songs.
“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art,” Swift wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
The singer-songwriter then entered into a dispute with Apple after the company said it would not pay artists for the first three months after it launched its music streaming service, when it was also not charging customers.
“I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music,” Swift said at the time, adding, “I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”
Apple swiftly backpedaled and agreed to remunerate artists from day one.
A vindicated Swift agreed to put her 1989 album on Apple Music and subsequently told Vanity Fair: “Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about.”
Of course, no history of artist-backed streaming services would be complete without mention of Jay Z’s Tidal.
The rapper-entrepreneur paid $56 million to acquire Tidal in 2015, and pitched it as a high-fidelity platform for artists, by artists. The service was much derided after its celebrity-studded launch during which co-owners Madonna, Rihanna, and Beyoncé appeared, signing a mock Declaration of Independence.
However, Tidal has leveraged its ownership to access significant artist exclusives and carved out a niche. In January it sold a 33 percent stake to Sprint at a $600 million valuation, according to multiple media reports.
Taylor must be hoping her ‘Swifties’ can pull off the same trick.