Taylor Swift’s entire catalogue is back on Spotify. Her first three albums haven’t been available since November 2014, and her October 2014 release 1989 has never been on the service before today. It’s the end of what has inarguably been the biggest, messiest controversy of the paid streaming era, and my colleague Micah Singleton has plenty of thoughts on how it happened and what it means for the music industry.
But I’m also interested in what this decision means for Taylor Swift. Not as a pop star or Katy Perry’s nemesis (happy album release day, Katy!) or a lightning rod for controversy — but as Taylor Swift the economist, the moralist, and the vague symbol for artists’ rights.
To put Swift into some context I think is often ignored, she’s not just one of the biggest pop stars in the world: She’s also its most successful, prolific, and recognizable contemporary songwriter. That’s a designation she’s proven she cares about. She can make hundreds of millions touring as an A-list performer, but it still makes sense that a prodigiously talented young woman who was written off for years on the basis of her diaristic songwriting and frivolous interest in glitter would transition into adult pop stardom in part on a platform of business savvy and semi-empowering rhetoric about the value of her own labor.
She’s uniquely positioned to speak authoritatively on this issue as a public-facing brand and a behind-the-scenes creative. Though, that doesn’t guarantee that her stance on streaming is logically sound.
My 9 year old will be happy that she can listen to Taylor Swift on Spotify again at least.