Outspoken activist musician and all-round legend Billy Bragg has publicly criticised pop star Taylor Swift, calling her recent decision to remove her entire catalogue from streaming service Spotify “a corporate power play” after he found that her music will instead be made available through the new player in the streaming game, Google’s YouTube Music Key.
In a lengthy Facebook post, the songwriter and activist accused Swift of acting hypocritically, claiming she masked her decision to pull music from Spotify as “some sort of altruistic gesture in solidarity with struggling music makers”, when all she was doing was “choosing sides” and “cosying up” with Google and YouTube.
He said that making her new album, 1989, and back catalogue available on Google’s new service, which also offers listeners a free service alongside a premium subscription tier, undermines any previous statements she made about honouring the value of music.
“She should just be honest with her fans and say, ‘sorry, but Sergey Brin gave me a huge amount of money to be the headline name on the marquee for the launch of YouTube Music Key and so I’ve sold my soul to Google’,” Bragg writes.
“If Ms Swift was truly concerned about perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free, she should be removing her material from You Tube, not cosying up to it,” he adds.
In a statement to NME, a spokesperson for Swift has denied the claims that the singer has entered into an arrangement with YouTube Music Key, saying, “Taylor Swift has had absolutely no discussion or agreement of any kind with Google’s new music streaming service.”
In an subsequent tweet to his Facebook post, responding to the news of Swift’s statement, Bragg points to a YouTube Music Key review in Wired, published last week, which points out that Swift’s single Shake It Off is available on the service.
YouTube’s director of music partnerships Christophe Muller is quoted in the story, singling out Swift’s contribution to the service while discussing its features. “Taylor’s videos have been successful on YouTube—she has over nine million subscribers on the platform, making her one of our most subscribed musicians,” he said.
“So we’re working hard to have more ways for her and all the other musicians to have their music discovered and to earn more revenue.” The article notes that the only tracks you can hear from 1989 on the service are the two singles she’s released – Shake It Off and Blank Space, both of which are already available on the existing YouTube platform.
Just last week, Google and YouTube unveiled their paid subscription streaming service, which has launched as invite-only trial service in a handful of countries. Like other streaming services, it reportedly operates on both a free, ad-supported video and audio streaming service and as an ad-free, paid service.
Swift, rather publicly, did not give permission for her latest album, 1989, to be available on Spotify when it was released earlier this month and then announced her decision to remove all of her previous releases from the streaming service.
Interestingly, reports the BBC, Billy Bragg’s own music will also appear on the service, as it was included as part of an agreement signed by Merlin – a company representing indie labels. Bragg told the BBC he had not been informed about the details about the deal.
Read Billy Bragg’s full post below.
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) November 18, 2014