Published Nov 18, 2014This month, Taylor Swift rocked the music industry when she pulled her catalogue from Spotify with claims that it devalued music, and she then racked up enormous first-week sales with her new album 1989. Some have praised Swift for standing up against the notoriously small royalties offered by streaming services, but political songwriter Billy Bragg is taking a different view: he thinks that Swift has sold her soul to Google.
What sparked Bragg's ire? Well, even though Tay-Tay has withdrawn her music from Spotify, she's apparently cooperating with Google for the launch of its new YouTube Music Key streaming service, which went into beta mode this week.
Bragg addressed this issue in a lengthy Facebook post. He didn't criticize Swift for choosing Google over Spotify, saying, "That's her prerogative as a savvy businesswoman."
He did, however, criticize the pop singer for portraying her rejection of Spotify as an "altruistic gesture in solidarity with struggling music makers." He further argued that Google is attempting to secure a monopoly on the streaming market.
Read Bragg's post below. It's worth pointing out that he has a fairly nuanced viewpoint in regards to the whole streaming debate; around this time last year, he defended streaming services, saying that labels were at fault for the low payouts.
Swift hasn't responded to the accusations, but we're guessing that she's going to shake it off. After all, haters gonna hate, and she's laughing all the way to the bank with the best sales week since The Eminem Show in 2002.
UPDATE: A rep for Swift has now responded to Bragg's claims by stating there was "absolutely no discussion or agreement of any kind with Google's new music streaming service."
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.