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Pulling a Swifty: video release angers fans


Taylor Swift: New Romantics teaser

Taylor Swift’s New Romantics music video is now available only on Apple Music, a move that has angered many fans.

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Taylor Swift’s New Romantics video, released overnight on Wednesday, might just be the most cynical release in the history of popular music (yes, it’s a big call). But it might also be a rare instance of a misstep for the flawless pop princess, whose usually devoted fans are already expressing their dismay on social media.

What rankles is not just the fact that New Romantics is the seventh – yes, seventh – single released from the 18-month-old album 1989. It’s that Tay-Tay has pitched the video – a compendium of highlights from her 18-month-long global tour in support of 1989 – as a gift to the fans who mean so much to her, while ensuring those fans can only see it by signing up to subscription streaming service Apple Music.

The best people in life are free, Swift sings in the song, but her music – and now even her music videos – certainly aren’t.

Come on, give it up: Taylor Swift has angered some fans by making her latest video available only via paid streaming service Apple Music.

Come on, give it up: Taylor Swift has angered some fans by making her latest video available only via paid streaming service Apple Music. Photo: Penny Stephens

Though hailed uncritically by an array of entertainment media including MTV, Entertainment Weekly and Just Jared, the video release is in truth a move by one of the world’s biggest recording artists to try to shift the power balance in streaming from market leader Spotify to Apple’s rival platform, launched in June 2015. And at least some fans have clearly seen it that way.

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“Taylor, we get it that you want to make money out of everything you have worked for, it’s absolutely your right, but honestly, this is too much,” one fan from Tunisia wrote on her official Facebook page. “I mean, we pay for your albums, concerts, merch stuff, and now your music videos?”

On Twitter, too, the fans have pushed back.

It’s an especially cynical move because Swift has denied the fans that she so loudly and lavishly lauds the ability to stream her music via Spotify since July 2014, because she doesn’t much like the deal it offered her.

Spotify works on a “freemium” model, wherein users can choose to pay a monthly subscription fee or listen for free, with ads. Apple Music works purely on a paid subscription model. Both Apple Music and Spotify Premium (the ad-free version) cost about $12 a month in Australia.

Writing with considerable passion and eloquence in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal in July 2014, Swift made her thoughts on the Spotify model clear.

“In recent years, you’ve probably read the articles about major recording artists who have decided to practically give their music away, for this promotion or that exclusive deal. My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet … is that they all realise their worth and ask for it.”

It was a canny argument, combining a thoroughly reasonable demand that artists be paid for their work with a savvy understanding of the music business and a pitch to the princess feminists in her audience.

It’s all about the fans.

“Music is art, and art is important and rare,” she went on. “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.”

Certainly, no one could accuse Swift of that. 

New Romantics, which was released as a digital single in February, is the seventh single from 1989, which was released in October 2014 and had sold 8.6 million copies worldwide by February 2015 (the last time figures were made available), and has sold many, many more copies since then.

The album has been a cash cow, mercilessly milked one single at a time, even if it appears the yield is finally slowing to a trickle. According to digital sales tracker kworb, Shake It Off has had 5.6 million paid digital downloads in the US alone, Blank Space 4.56 million, Style 2.14 million, Bad Blood 3 million, Wildest Dreams 1.79 million, and Out of the Woods 800,000. Each of those downloads costs $US1.29.

Taylor Swift’s latest move has caused a bit of Bad Blood. 

New Romantics was in fact not included on the initial CD release of 1989 in the US, but was made available as a bonus track on the special edition made available at the same time exclusively via Target stores. That no doubt drove many fans to buy duplicate copies; at any rate, sales through Target accounted for more than one-quarter of the album’s 1.29 million first-week US total in October 2014.

For now, Swift has thrown her weight firmly behind Apple Music, though it’s possible she is really making eyes across the crowded dancefloor at Spotify (the former has 11 million subscribers, the latter seven times that). If so, Apple Music should perhaps be warned: it could end up being dumped, then having a song written about how their relationship was great at the start, but the gloss soon wore off. So it goes in Tay-Tay-land.

There are indeed rumours that Spotify is considering changes to its model, wherein some artists would be able to keep their music off the free platform, making it available only via the paid version. If true, that might just be enough to lure Swift back to the fold. Whether the disgruntled fans follow her remains to be seen.

Karl Quinn is on Facebook and on twitter @karlkwin



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