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In late 2014, Taylor Swift stunned the music industry by taking her music off Spotify and other streaming services, and announcing an exclusive deal with Apple Music.
The decision was, in part, motivated by the fact that Spotify users could listen to Swift’s music without a paid subscription, instead opting for the free, ad-supported tier. Apple Music, on the other hand, has no free option and is only available to paying subscribers.
In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal a few months before her music was removed from the service, Swift wrote that “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”
Nearly three years later, in a breathtaking turn of events, Swift’s oeuvre made a surprise return to Spotify the very same day that pop star Katy Perry released her latest album.
Whether this was a move meant only to spite her bitter rival, or was instead a response to Spotify’s plans to restrict its free tier, the result is the same: It’s a blow to Apple Music.
Earlier this week we reported that Apple Music is still trailing Spotify by a large margin — 27 million paid subscribers versus 50 million.
This chart shows that subscriber gap to stunning effect:
Mike Nudelman/Business Insider/Statista
Think about that for a second: For its entire lifetime, Apple Music has been built into nearly every iPhone on the market and it had exclusive access to arguably the biggest star in pop music besides Beyoncé.
Now, with Swift’s discography available on Spotify, Google Play and others, Apple is facing an even steeper hill to climb in order to overtake its chief rival. Prospective customers deciding between music services will no longer have Swift’s dulcet tones beckoning them towards Apple’s bosom as a deciding factor.
It will be interesting to see what happens as the streaming services go head-to-head with even rosters of superstar talent. One thing is for sure: Taylor Swift will win either way.
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