The open access of music has becoming an increasingly popular topic in the media. Artists now have the option to stream their music on multiple platforms some which are completely free and others that charge the consumer per song or per month.

“It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

Taylor Swift, 2015

Last year Taylor Swift decided to prevent her music from being streamed on Spotify. Although it has been debated whether she did this as a PR stunt to maximise album sales, this made many people think how beneficial open-access music is for the artists themselves. Although this news article may have earned Taylor some media coverage it will have prevented her album from gaining wider exposure.


However it is hard for the Average Joe to feel sympathy for artists like Swift who move away from streaming services because they don’t believe they are being paid enough, as lets be honest they already have a lot more money than the rest of us.

Spotify explained : “By bringing listeners into our free, ad-supported tier, we migrate them away from piracy and less monetised platforms and allow them to generate far greater royalties than they were before”

According to economists Luis Aguiar and Joel Waldfogel, “interactive streaming appears to be revenue-neutral for the recorded music industry”. This means that although streaming has lowered the amount of traditional music sales, artists will make the same amount from streaming that they would have originally done from more traditional medias. Below is the method Spotify use to to compensate each artist:




Here is an interview with the CEO of Spotify discussing the future of the company:

Although it is easy for the consumers of these services to work out the benefits and pitfalls of each streaming service (this is mostly done by cost and number of songs available). The artist themselves also have to decide to allow their music to be streamed.

The open music model developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, states that music should now be seen as a “service” rather than as individual records (products). According to this theory services like Spotify are the future of music. This is supported by consumer spending of paid subscriptions rising by 25% to $799 million.





33 thoughts on “Drowning in a TIDALwave

  1. Hi Hannah,

    Really interesting and thoughtful blog post which speaks to me greatly as I switched to Spotify about a year ago.

    I noticed you wrote about Taylor Swift not allowing her music on Spotify. I don’t really agree with her opinion on streaming services as I believe them to be the future of listening to music, but what I find particularly hypocritical is how she chose to allow Apple Music to stream her music and even now appears in their adverts ( ). I find this strange as really she’s now funding one of the largest companies in the world compared to a smaller company like Spotify when she claimed to be all about artists being paid fairly… it’s unfortunate I like some of her music!

    I’ll admit that I did used to sometimes download music from YouTube so I could listen to it for free, but since switching to Spotify it’s so much more convenient and I know that the artists are getting paid when I listen so personally I think it’s such a good idea. Reading more about the Open Music model you linked is interesting and I also spotted this letter written by Steve Jobs that talks about how music shouldn’t come with DRM restrictions ( ) which is fascinating.



    1. Hi Tom,
      I didn’t realise Taylor Swift was now using Apple music, that does seem very hypocritical of her. I guess they must be paying her more (as you can tell Im quite skeptical about her choice)
      I have to admit I do still download music from youtube however I reserve this now for unreleased songs or live covers that you couldn’t pay for if you tried!! Are you now paying for spotify or using the free version?



      1. Hi Hannah,

        I do pay for Spotify (although get it half price on the student discount!). For me, it’s cheaper than buying a years worth of albums so it makes sense. 🙂


  2. Hi Hannah

    I found your blog very interesting and liked the questioning of whether Taylor Swift is doing this to boost sales or not. In my opinion although she may have some point to it, the main reason had to be the publicity from it in order to boost sales. More recently the whole Beyonce Jay-Z Lemonade thing is the same as this as by generating controversy tidal is being downloaded and used more benefitting its owners including Jay-Z.

    In terms of artists not getting treated fairly I feel that the music streaming services are a step up from people illegally downloading the music of the artists because before it was so expensive to follow lots of bands and have their music and with music streaming artists are still getting a good deal. What is your opinion?


    1. Hi Sam,
      I guess my honest opinion is I’m struggling to find sympathy for the big artists like Swift or JayZ who claim that they aren’t being paid enough as they have a lot more money than all of us. However I guess have to think not only about the main artists but those producing the tracks or the instrumentalists who don’t make that much (I guess tho thats more to do with the record company)

      Illegal downloading though not fair for anyone is especially not fair for lesser known artists who do depend on sales, however I guess you can’t have one rule for them and one for the famous/rich artists.


  3. Hi Hannah! I really enjoyed your approach to this topic and the ‘punny’ title! Your post along with Roshini’s (linked below) made a nice change to the majority of others who focussed on the open access of academic articles and journals.
    I thought that your point about music streaming being revenue neutral was really interesting. For someone like myself who uses streaming services it was great to see that services such as spotify and apple music make a difference to the ethical issues surrounding music piracy.
    I did however come to the conclusion after reading Rofinis post that perhaps ‘free’ music is more suitable when musicians are trying to gain publicity established musicians are known, illustrating their skills as a career where royalties are more important although maybe not so much where millionaires are concerned! Would you suggest that this might be behind her reasoning, along with many academic professionals that charge for their works?


    Rofinis Post:


  4. Hi Holly!
    I completely agree with you, after reading Rofini’s post I too agree that free music is the best way to gain exposure. I personally haven’t really come around to paying for a streaming service but I do see this as the future of music

    I don’t know if there is an element of snobbery with certain people charging for their music or academic papers, maybe they simply think their work is too good to be given away for free. If they’ve worked hard at it then maybe they do deserve the money. Although I did see an academic article the other day retailing for $19.99 for one months use, this does seem excessive! However the 79p iTunes charge for one song does not seem so excessive.



    1. Hi Hannah, I think we can both definitely agree that the debate of open access is far from being agreed on! I do think it is just down to how an artist can be properly accredited for their work! As some comments on my own blog have picked up on, it often doesn’t matter if something is licensed people will find a way to watch/ use it!


  5. Hey Hannah, Lovely post this week and I really liked the approach you looked at!
    The music industry has always had complications with copyrights and leaking music but sometimes this works in their favour. As you mentioned, Spotify play Artist’s music, and although Taylor Swift made complaints about the way it works, Artists still get recognised in the charts as a certain amount of streams equal’s one download. Stormzy used this to his advantage during Christmas to promote his track “Shut-up” and it made him more known to people who don’t listen to his genre. Additionally artists like Beyonce have not suffered even with leaks being released on twitter – she found that her new album and the buzz it created on social media actually helped people sign up to Tidal and increase demand for her latest tour.(If you’re interested –

    I think Artists could benefit if they knew how to work with this to their advantage. As many Artists make the majority of their money through tours and concerts, they should try and raise hype through these sharing sites. What do you think?

    Miss CEO x


    1. Hi Miss CEO,
      I have to say the idea for my post was inspired by the recent release of Beyonce’s album only on Tidal. I agree with you that making an album like this that this only available on one platform can create a buzz around the album that will then lead to greater sales, however as a consumer I think artists should be more open with their music to let all of their fans hear it.
      Part of me believes that their albums don’t actually get leaked and that it is a PR hoax to excite fans. What do you think?

      Hannah x


      1. Hi Hannah,
        I agree with you to an extent about artists releasing their music more open but this depends how it’s done. What are you suggesting when you say this? free music links? What you have to remember is that this is their job and they need to get recognition and money as professionals. there are cheaper options such as single downloads rather than the album and previews help with this hype. Some artists do leak their work on purpose however we are often informed of this. With so much technology these days it is easy for the public to leak new music! just look at twitter within the first few hours of an album release and you’ll see all the content leaked for you.

        Miss CEO x


  6. I really enjoyed your post, Hannah!

    I had only considered the topic of open access in terms of academic literature before reading this post; thank you for introducing me to the subject of open access issues in music.

    You’ve noted that the ‘Open Music Model’ suggests that services, such as Spotify, are the future of music, and that music should been seen as more of a service than a product. I struggle to fully agree with this. I do not currently use Spotify, as I have a particular music taste and do not feel the need to have access to many artists at once. My iTunes library has all of the music that I want to listen to when I’m out and about, and I am quite content with purchasing individual songs and albums.

    However, I can definitely see the argument for Spotify in terms of money saving. Nevertheless, my view on this topic leads me to take the standpoint that open access in the music industry isn’t a necessity. Do you think that open access should be the norm in the music industry?


    1. Hi Sam!
      I love your different approach to the topic, I too am a big iTunes user and only really engage in Spotify if I don’t wish to pay for an album or am playing music for a group of people. In my honest opinion I think streaming services will become the future of the music industry, as many consumers will be sold on the “more albums for your money” approach.

      I believe that open access is very useful in the music industry to create a wider buzz and gain more fans


  7. Hey Hannah,

    It was a great read and always very nice to see someone also taking a different approach to the discussion regarding free content by content producers. I remember the first time that Taylor Swift came out and had decided not to promote her music on Spotify. My initial thought was, why not? I was confused at the thought of her doing so because to be successful in music everywhere you need to spread your music and make it accessible to everyone everywhere. I know however, that the underlying issue here is about getting paid and about getting money back from the content they produce. Despite this, she is one of the most well known artist in the music industry selling massive amounts of records and albums worldwide. She is also a well paid musician who has, as you said, more money than the rest of us.

    As an aspiring musician, I have outlined the advantages and disadvantages myself but a question comes to mind about whether my content again should be free. The time and effort and not to forget money invested in it has always made me think about the future repercussions if I were to release it for free, as you would always want to have a return on investment especially in a capitalist society. The thing that really puzzles me most is, although almost annoying, is that artist like Taylor Swift who are earning way more money than us aspiring artist are constantly pushing to earn more money than it seems to give the wants what they want. Do you think that big artists are forgetting about why people make music or what music is for i.e. the art of listening or sharing experiences ? Do you think that they are so caught up in a capitalist society that all they think about is making music that will earn them a lot of money?

    Rofini! 🙂


    1. Hi Rofini,
      I completely agree with your comment that big artists are forgetting about the true reason for creating music and focusing instead on doing so to earn money. I think aspiring artists are more likely to use multiple platforms in order to try and gain as much exposure as possible. It seems however famous artists are going for the platforms that pay them the most or just picking one in order to create a buzz.

      I have to admit I did buy Taylor Swift’s album but I don’t think it was right of her to stop it from being on a free streaming service. For most £11 or equivalent for an album isn’t that much money however artists must remember that some people do not have that disposable income. For some people their only touch point with an artist is through their album (as concert tickets are extremely pricey) so they should make it more about the fans. Artists still make a great deal of money from other means such as radio plays and concert sales so I think they need to rethink whats important

      Good luck with your music
      Hannah x

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Hannah, great post! I didn’t think of applying the idea of open access to the music industry for my blog, but I can see how it applies well. Although I think open access is the way forward regarding journal articles, I think it is the same direction for musical artists, however I do not support this because I actually agree with Taylor Swift’s controversial statement. Music and songwriting and singing is her job, so her songs are her product. She’s an in demand artist, which drives her price up and I think she is entitled to what she has earned, albeit it at a ludicrous rate compared to the rest of us! I think she decided to partner with Apple Music because although they have a free initial trial period of 3 months, after that consumers have to pay a monthly amount, of which is paid to the artists the service streams, unlike Spotify, which has the option for consumers never to pay for their streaming service. Although I think open access in the music industry is where it’s headed in the future, I do think fellow artists, and even ones lesser known than T-Swizzle, will be putting up a fight to get their fair share.


    1. Hey Anna,
      It’s interesting you agree with T-swizzle’s controversial statement, I saw her side of it more before I knew how spotify actually pay it’s artists. Even though we may not pay for subscriptions artists are still paid based on the number of plays they get. I know her demand is high therefore she can increase her rates but music is advertised as for everyone, not just for her fans who can afford an Apple music subscription!


  9. Hi Hannah,

    I like the approach that you took with your post; previously I had mainly been thinking of Open Access from an academic perspective. What I find quite interesting is the difference between the issues for these. In Academia, Open Access is seen as a positive initiative because under the perfect Open Access model, the costs of those producing the content does not change: submitting to a free online publisher should not cost any more than submitting to a traditional journal. Furthermore, the research can reach a greater audience due to the abolishment of extortionate subscriptions and benefit the wider scientific community. However, Taylor Swift and other artists such as Thom Yorke seem to have a problem with the fact that traditional album sales in the pre-Internet era may have made much greater revenue than the low-payout model of streaming – or even the non-payment of free illegal downloading. They seem to have a more moral issue about the devaluing of their work, and this for me is an important distinction – people are no longer willing to pay as much for music than they used to.

    Other commenters have mentioned how ironically, Taylor Swift (and Radiohead too in fact) now have their music available on services such as Tidal and Apple Music but I think an important point here is that both those services offer only paid subscriptions whereas Spotify allows unpaid subscribers subsidised by advertisements. I think the shunning of Spotify, is an unwillingness to associate with a service that gives the illusion of music being a free commodity.


    1. Hi,
      I completely agree their is a huge difference between open access in music and open access in academia. I’m a big advocator for open access in academia (especially as I’m about to start my dissertation). Artists must now realise that physical album sales are going to lower because its no longer the sole platform that we can listen to music on. I have to say I personally do not wish to pay as much for music as I did previously. If I knew the album was for an artist starting out then I would to help their career but does Taylor Swift or equivalent really deserve that kind of money?


  10. Ok, I can’t resist weighing in here. The argument that Taylor Swift has lots of money, and therefore nothing valid to say, is moot. She has lots of money because her record label have supported her – in much the same was as the old model did, btw – with marketing and gigs. And they did that because she was producing a sound that could easily be commerialised i.e. she appeals to a specific market with money to spend. The only real difference between TS and more ‘traditional’ artists i.e. those before the whole world went digital is that TS is now a brand as much as an artist. So, I make two points here: 1) TS has made money because she was/is a good bet commercially. That does not preclude her from an opinion. 2) Most of the commercially successful artists appeal to a narrow audience, and what’s been lost in all this is musical diversity.

    Independent artists producing music that isn’t mainstream are still struggling. Rehearsal space costs money. Travelling to gigs costs money. Most bands are slowly beginning to realise that recording stuff yourself, in your bedroom, using GarageBand or similar produces sound that is, frankly, a bit rubbish, but access to a proper recording studio with a professional sound engineer costs money. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have much of a following. That takes time to build up. Musicians aren’t generally great marketers, and that’s what the record labels used to do in the old days – you know, the days when you bought and owned an actual CD (with artwork and lyrics and everything). They funded that, and supported a new band until they either build up a decent following and could renegotiate their contract (usually after the third album) or they’d be dropped, (usually) no hard feelings and no money to pay back. That was life in the music industry back in the old days.

    The ability to make music requires talent. The same kind of talent that can fix your leaking water pipe, or install your gas boiler, or drive that bus you take to Uni every day. Why should it be given away for free? Why do some people value the pleasure of music so little that they’re prepared to steal it, thus stifling the revenue stream that is the lifeblood of culture?

    I subscribe to Spotify, although their revenue model is so convoluted (which, to be fair, isn’t entirely their fault. When the money you spend to buy a single is split between the song writer(s), the musician(s), the record label, and maybe a whole host of other people if the track has used samples) artists end up getting almost nothing. This whole thing came about because literally one or two individuals decided that they could make some extra money by stealing the digital masters of top albums. Then MP3s came along making it a doddle to spread the compressed files around and bingo! The argument that ‘the old school recording industry is a corrupt money-making machine’ and ‘everyone has a right to music’ arguments were presented to meet the criticism.

    As you can probably guess, I’m not an advocate of free access to music. I value culture much too highly. I gladly pay for Spotify, but I think they should be charging more. Music is worth more. Much more. And I will always buy the actual CD of bands I value. Because the other thing is, you’re only renting music from these digital sources. It could be taken away tomorrow, just like Amazon can take away your digital books. If you like it, buy it, and support the revenue stream that regularly gives me and others like me hours and hours of amazing, non-commercial and non-charting music to trawl through, because I’d like to think that when you’re my age, you’ll have the kind of musical legacy to draw on that I have, and that you’re not stuck listening to Taylor Swift. That would be a tragedy.


    1. Hi Sarah, all of the points mention are so valid and that’s what makes the open access debate so interesting. Maybe I didn’t acknowledge that music costs money to make as I understand that it does, much like research is costly to produce. My argument is the way she went about it. As a marketing student I see her actions as a motive to drum up publicity and sales revenue. One advantage of open access is that the less advantaged are able to access materials. With many of Taylor swifts fans being younger teens refusing to put her music on free streaming sites disadvantages them and in today’s culture I don’t think this is fair. I personally don’t pay for my Spotify use and this as you mention is flawed but I feel that accessing content through an organisation such as Spotify is better than illegally downloading the content for my own free use. As you say the digital world is changing dramatically, perhaps we need to adopt an alternative system somewhere in the middle of fully paid content and open access? I believe what I stated in my post that music is changing to become a service not individual products. If I really love an album then I’ll buy it but if I just like one song in my head then I will use Spotify – it’s also a great way to test if you want to buy the artists album! that’s the perks of not having Spotify premium it allows me to listen to an album then if I like it I will purchase the album to avoid ads


      1. Spotify has a valid place, and I’ve no doubt that it’s allowed people that are really interested in music the chance to explore a staggering range. Maybe we’ve all become a bit cynical when it comes to people like TS making comments on the decisions she’s made regarding access to her music? The good thing, of course, is that she CAN make those decisions because she has a say in where her music is distributed. In the past, artists didn’t as their music was effectively owned by the record label. In this instance, the change is a good one. p.s. excuse the typos in my first comment – I was on a roll, as you could probably guess!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s