Why Taylor Swift’s Spat With Spotify Is a Massive Marketing Mistake

Taylor Swift
Everybody is talking about 1989. The stars seemed to be aligned for Taylor Swift, but maybe all this success has been going to her head. It was huge news when she decided to pull all her music from Spotify, and the reactions were pretty divided. Some people praised her for really taking charge of her career to earn as much as she can from album sales, while others argued that it wasn’t the wisest decision. And from a marketing perspective, I have to agree with the latter.

One of the biggest reasons why Taylor made a big mistake is that she’s now burned her bridge with Spotify. The streaming service is growing like crazy, and will probably be a major force to be reckoned with in the music industry within the next few years. And if the next time she has an album out she regrets her decision to part with Spotify, it’s unlikely they’ll take her back (in other words, they are never ever getting back together). And one of the golden rules of marketing is to not make enemies (or at least make as few as possible) because it will come back to bite you.

Another reason is that the music scene is drastically changing. Traditional radio is losing popularity now that sites like Spotify and Pandora exist, and within the next five to ten years internet radio will surely get more and more popular–maybe even to the point of making traditional radio obsolete, much like the way Hulu and Netflix are hitting cable companies. She’s ignoring a huge chance for growth in the future, and potentially missing out on a huge paycheck. Combine that with the idea that most of her target audience is young people, and many young people may not listen to traditional radio as much as internet radio.

Of course, there’s always the argument that she’s really doing the right thing because if people can’t stream her music, they’ll just buy her album. I don’t follow that logic. Because for one, they’re used for different purposes. Personally, I buy albums when I have a specific use for the music (workout playlist, driving soundtrack, etc.) or when I really really really love every song. But I use Spotify when I’m at work or as background music when I’m working around the house. And there have been many instances when I heard a song on Spotify, became addicted to it, and then bought it because I couldn’t get enough of it. Did I buy the entire album? No, but I probably wouldn’t have even bought the single if it hadn’t been for Spotify.

Also, everyone who was planning on buying her album probably has already done so. Her fans will buy it no matter what, but the people on the fence need to be convinced first. That convincing comes in the form of Spotify. Spotify is essentially a form of advertising–if people like what they hear they’ll buy the product, if not they won’t. It’s sort of like asking a consumer to buy a product sight unseen, and if they do buy the album and aren’t satisfied, they may never be Taylor fans.

Bottom line: Taylor Swift can afford to do what she wants. If she’s willing to risk hundreds or thousands (or millions) of dollars and possibly ruining her relationship with Spotify, that’s her choice. Maybe it will work out well for her, and she’ll sell even more albums and there will be a shift in the industry towards buying rather than streaming. But it’s her against the ever-advancing digital age, and even a superstar can’t compete with that.


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