What Does the Taylor Swift v. Spotify Fallout Mean for Music?

Taylor Swift has a lot to be proud of this year. Her newest album 1989 immediately became the best-selling album of 2014, selling a staggering 1.3 million copies in one week. This is the third Taylor Swift album that’s sold more than one million copies in just seven days – a milestone no other artist has achieved (yet). But one possible blight on Swift’s incredible success for the year is her fallout with streaming service Spotify, which some critics say could hurt her popularity.

Swift recently pulled 1989 and the rest of her music catalog from the streaming service, explaining in a recent interview with Yahoo, “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music…”And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

We were curious to see how Taylor Swift’s popularity was affected by this move. Did her site receive more or less traffic? How did this impact Spotify? How did paid music platforms like iTunes fare? Is it possible to predict the continued impact this will have on Taylor Swift’s image and her music?

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We used  engagement metrics from SimilarWeb to address these questions and provide insights as to what effect this may have on the future of music streaming.

 

Taylor Swift’s Official Site “Shakes it Off;” Sees More Traffic

First, we took a look at Taylor Swift’s official website. Compared to average daily desktop visits in October, site traffic increased by 820% – with a huge spike on November 3rd, when the singer pulled her music from Spotify. There was a 314% increase on October 27th, which was the date of the official release of 1989. Interestingly, the sharpest increase in website traffic occurred on the day Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify, not on the date of the album’s debut.

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When we analyzed popular pages we found that these visits were not directed towards purchasing. In fact, visits to the purchasing section of the artist’s site actually decreased during the past 28 days when compared to October’s stats.  Maybe the boost in traffic to other site pages can be attributed to curious users who had heard about the Spotify story. Or maybe some users just wanted to sample the album first before making a purchase somewhere else.

The shopping domain of Taylor Swift’s website illustrates varying peaks as the volume of visits spikes on the album release date (October 27th) and also on the date Swift pulled her music from Spotify (November 3rd).

taylorswiftshoppingdomain

The Web’s Response to the Fallout: Swift Soars

It seems the Spotify scandal has had a positive impact on Taylor Swift’s online presence:

  1. Taylor Swift’s twitter account doubled in number of visits during the past 28 days versus October’s engagement stats
  2. Visits to her official Instagram page increased by 57%
  3. After the scandal broke, articles featuring Taylor Swift made up 1.2% of all page visits to MTV.com as compared to just 0.32% in October

Other websites also benefited from the Spotify fiasco. Mentioning Taylor Swift in an article worked wonders in terms of boosting site visits – Billboard.com, for example, received 3.4% of all search visits from Taylor Swift-related queries.

Swift continued to do well on other sites too.  Her new album 1989 quickly became the highest searched for item on iTunes, comprising 4 out of the top 20 searches.

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1989 also topped the list of most popular albums on iTunes for the past 28 days.

 

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Clearly, the Spotify incident hasn’t negatively affected Swift’s popularity, as the data doesn’t lie – Taylor Swift’s music is still topping the charts. Could this be a direct effect of the scandal, or is it based on the success of her latest album alone? We believe it’s a little of both, though Taylor Swift was so popular beforehand it’s hard to imagine anything really detracting from that. Even bad publicity is good publicity.

 

What Does this Mean for the Future of Music Streaming?

Now for the million-dollar question: How did this affect Spotify?

Before she withdrew her music from the site, Taylor Swift’s page was the most visited on Spotify.com (for October).  For the past 28 days, she was the most listened to artist on the site.

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Once the singer pulled her music from the site, Spotify suffered a sharp drop in visits – but the streaming service recovered very quickly.

DesktopvisitstoSpotify

 

According to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, top artists (like Swift) were set to earn $6 million from the streaming site. Spotify also claimed that the singer earned $2 million from streaming her music in the past year.  But Swift’s record label refuted the claim, saying that the domestic streaming payout was actually much lower at $500,000.

It’s important to note that Taylor Swift had more competition from both rising stars and established artists on Spotify, which sees over 88 million daily visits, with the vast majority of users being free subscribers.  iTunes, on the other hand, is her most promising outlet in terms of paid music downloads. Swift massively outruns other competing artists. iTunes has over 49 million visits daily, but the bulk of their users come to buy. That’s obviously good news for Swift.

Ultimately, it appears that the Spotify scandal didn’t hurt Swift at all – in fact she (and her label, and a variety of other sites) seem to have benefited from the split. And while Spotify’s 40 million users may say otherwise, the site hasn’t suffered much damage, at least not for the short term. Yet there is definitely more scrutiny on Spotify since the Swift fallout. Many in the music industry have been long-since questioning how Spotify compensates artists and record labels; the recent rift with Swift has just added more fuel to the fire. It’ll be interesting to see if other popular artists follow Taylor Swift’s example, and what that could mean for the future of music streaming.

About the Author -

Ari is the Sr. Director of Corporate Marketing at SimilarWeb. He has spent the last decade in ad-tech working on the agency side of the business before jumping over to Kenshoo where he launched their marketing activities. He also led the marketing for Adquant, a Facebook ad platform, making it a top 10 Facebook PMD prior to its acquisition.

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