Did Taylor Swift Weaponize Streaming Music Against Katy Perry?

After years of holding out, the pop princess released her full catalog on Spotify—the same day her rival Katy Perry's new album debuted.

by Carl Franzen and Louise Matsakis
Jun 9 2017, 5:14pm

Image: Danny Lawson/PA Wire Remix by Rachel Pick

The streaming services have won, but Taylor Swift isn't letting her rival Kerry Perry claim victory alongside them.

More than two years after pulling her discography from every streaming service except Apple Music, Swift's record label Big Machine Records announced Friday that the pop star's songs are returning to Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music.

Swift previously bet that she could earn more money from conventional record sales, a wager that appears to have not worked out in her favor. In 2014, she explained to Yahoo that she didn't want to be on Spotify because she didn't want to "contribute my life's work to an experiment."

It turns out that streaming services aren't just an experiment, but increasingly the only way customers are willing to pay for music. It's unlikely though, that Swift merely came to that realization this week.

So why did Swift decide to return to streaming on this particular Friday? Possibly to fuck with the release of Katy Perry's new album Witness, which was conveniently released at the same exact time. That's the rumor circulating on social media, at least.

If you're not up-to-date on the years-long, deliciously petty feud between the two pop divas—apparently sparked when Perry hired some of Swift's backup dancers—you're missing out.

Imagine Tupac vs. Biggie, but with way less gun violence and much more passive aggressiveness. The two have both reportedly released diss tracks about each other and have made no visible signs of public reconciliation.

Taylor hasn't been shy about using streaming exclusivity as a way of getting what she wants. She previously threatened to withhold her album 1989 from Apple Music until Apple agreed to pay artists for streams during the free trial period.

It doesn't seem ridiculous to imagine that Swift would be willing to weaponize her streaming catalog again, this time against her rival Perry on her big day.

More importantly, will other artists follow Taylor's lead and try to destabilize their rivals with strategic streaming music releases timed to overshadow them? If the streaming media arms race results in more music across more platforms, it's hard to argue that's a bad thing for listeners.

While it's fun to think Swift's corporate overlords let her indulge in a petty feud with another pop star, the real reason Swift is back on streaming services is probably because of a new licensing deal between her distributor, Universal Music Group, and Spotify.

The new deal allows to make new music unavailable to free Spotify users for up to two weeks. In other words, if you're not paying for Spotify, you won't be able to listen to Swift's new tunes. Paid streams, as their name implies, pay artists more than free ones.

What we know for sure is that the streaming wars are going to continue.