Taylor Swift: Art Ain’t Free – The London Economic

By Harry Bedford, Music Editor 

Taylor Swift is one of biggest selling recording artists around today. Her evolution from country teen to pop princess has been incredibly successful and her latest album 1989 is already the best selling album of the year. However, the charismatic 25-year-old has caused a little controversy in the music industry this week by removing all of her back-catalogue from the music streaming service Spotify. In 2012, she refused to add her album Red to the service for six months, and it was assumed this would be the case with 1989 when it failed to show on the day it went on sale in the shops. But just days later it was decided, either by her or her record label, that none of her music would remain on Spotify.

Swift made the reason for this decision very clear, “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.” Being a very likable personality, it’s very easy to find yourself agreeing with the statement she made in the Wall Street Journal in July. It’s undeniable that Swift is a very talented musician who has managed to write and record several successful albums, winning both critical and commercial acclaim. That her “music is art”, therefore, is a valid statement. What’s more, art is important, rare and valuable. The problem is the “valuable things should be paid for” comment.

In the 19th Century when Britain was ruled by Queen Victoria, her husband, Prince Albert had the idea of opening the great museums and exhibitions of some of the world’s most valuable and rare artefacts to the general public. How much did he think that these rare and important artefacts should cost the general public to see? Nothing. He believed that the every man deserved to witness for himself the beauty and complexity of the objects that occupy London’s best museums. This revolutionary idea stands to this day and you can hop off the Tube at South Kensington and visit The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Science Museum free of charge. The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square and The Tate Modern on the South Bank are two other example of where important and rare things are on display for free.

A more contemporary example is the infamous graffiti artist, Banksy. The style and satire of his street art has won him global acclaim from both the art world and the wider population. The works that he produces are undisputedly very rare and very important. Yet by the very nature of it, his work is not reserved for those few who are willing to pay for it. Instead, Banksy does the opposite, he takes his art and hands it to the general public to witness in their everyday life, on the side of buildings in very ‘normal’ locations. His attitude is evidently, “what’s the point of creating art if nobody gets to see it?”.

So what makes Taylor Swift believe that her music “should be paid for” and not great works by Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Leonardo di Vinci? Now, I agree that musicians deserve to earn a living and this is very important to the survival of a healthy music industry in the future. However, Spotify gives royalties to artists in line with radio payouts and if your music is successful enough, you can earn a healthy living from this, not forgetting revenues that artists get from playing shows. Taking all this into consideration, Taylor Swift’s motives to take her music off Spotify is, well, a little bit silly. Sadly, I will not be listening to or reviewing her new album, I’d rather spend my time with artists who are happy to have their music on popular mediums for their fans to enjoy.

Why pay for Swift when you can see Picasso for free?

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