“The best people in life are free”… unless you’re Taylor Swift, apparently. The pop princess, usually much loved by her fans, has come under fire for her decision to release the “New Romantics” music video on Apple Music, meaning that fans that want to watch it must sign up and pay for the streaming service.
Unfortunately, this is the only bit of Swift’s “New Romantics” music video that we can show you, due to her decision to release it exclusively on Apple Music. Fans were angered by the clear hypocrisy in Swift’s tweet, which is captioned “The best people in life are free,” but requires fans to pay for the rest of the video.
“New Romantics” is the seventh single from Swift’s record-smashing album “1989,” which sold 1.287 million copies just in its first week. Supposedly, the music video is a love letter from Swift to her fans, however, as it is basically a video of Swift’s “1989” world tour with a voice over and some behind the scenes footage thrown in, even the fans dedicated enough to pay for the service came away disappointed.
Swift is well known for her opinions on streaming services, having heavily criticised no.1 streaming service Spotify in 2014 for giving fans the opportunity to listen to music for free. The singer pulled her entire music catalogue from Spotify in the same year, and in 2015 threatened to pull her music from Apple Music on discovering that it did not pay royalties to artists during the three months free trial period all users are entitled to. Upon this announcement, Apple Music quickly changed their tune and agreed to pay artists during the trial, and consequently, Swift has endorsed the service every since.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Swift passionately advocated for music to be paid for, saying:
“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.”
If you are wondering why there is a Rolling Stone article about Swift’s op-ed provided above, instead of one to the actual Wall Street Journal, it is because even the publication Swift wrote the op-ed for is one that requires a paid subscription to access.
And fair enough. It is understandable that, after putting in a huge effort to write, record and produce albums and put on concerts for fans, Swift wants payment. That is the same in any industry, and in the music industry, where piracy has decimated record sales, it makes sense for an artist to take a stand against the practice and ask for payment where payment is due. This is particularly relevant in the case of Spotify, as it has been criticised in the past for unfair royalties. The Black Keys and AC/DC, among other artists, have removed their music from the streaming service due to extremely low royalties between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream. However, in the online music industry, sheer numbers of listeners mean that popular artists still make large profits off Spotify and other online streaming services.
Her music video is quite another matter. Swift needs to realise that, to some extent, she has to give in order to recieve. Music videos are an artist’s gift to their fans. They are the icing on the cake of a great album, the addition to an artist’s work that can be used to promote artists on television and other visual platforms. But that is all they are – an add-on, a complement, but certainly not something for which fans will subscribe to Apple Music. With music as the focal point of Swift’s work, why does her music video need also cost fans?
Music videos, traditionally, have always been free for audiences. During the 1970s, it was shows like Australian television programs “Countdown” and “Sounds,” and American program “Video Concert Hall,” that played hours of music videos for free. When “MTV” first launched in the 1980s it carried on this tradition, and now there are music video programs like “Rage” and “Top 40 Countdown,” none of which charge for music video viewing rights. Even now, with most people viewing music videos on online platforms like YouTube, artists still profit through advertising.
A large portion of Swift’s fan demographic is teenage girls, many of which would not have the money to pay for a monthly subscription to Apple Music – and that is if they even have a job. On top of this, fans already have to pay for albums, merchandise, concerts, the latter of which has many auxiliary costs. Location can also be an issue as Swift has fans in many different countries, some of which do not have easy access to electronic devices or Apple Music at all. Fans vehemently protested the move on Twitter.
@taylorswift13 put it on YouTube please I'm too poor for Apple Music
— Mollie ✨ NASHVILLE??✈️?? (@longlivemollie) April 6, 2016
It's like the #1989WorldTour and #NewRomantics is exclusively for the privileged ? only 6% of South Africans own an iPhone.
— Faiza Mallick (@Faiza_Mallick) April 7, 2016
I'm not leaving Taylor Swift but she needs to know what she did with New Romantics & apple was wrong we're aren't just paychecks
— Brian (@BrianSwiftie13) April 6, 2016
Though Swift’s decisions regarding the availability of her music on streaming services will likely result in a rise in record sales, many have criticised them as short-sighted and greedy. Artists cannot sell records if they do not have fans, and if Swift continues to laud every tiny piece of work over her young fans, she may find them dropping sooner than expected. Charge for albums, for merchandise, for concerts, for the reasons Swift’s fans got behind her in the first place… But give something back. If Swift really wanted to give back to her fans with this music video, she would not force them to pay a monthly subscription to an entire streaming service. Enough is enough.