Published Nov 20, 2014Earlier this week, Billy Bragg said that Taylor Swift had sold her soul to Google when she pulled her catalogue from Spotify and then apparently jumped ship to the new YouTube Music Key streaming service. Now, the political folk-punk singer has apologized to the pop megastar, since it turns out that Swift's albums aren't on YouTube Music Key after all.
In this most recent Facebook missive, posted today (November 20), Bragg explained that he had been under the impression that Swift was going to be the face of the launch campaign behind YouTube Music Key. He added that many sources had reported that Swift's full back catalogue would be available through the service (which seemed hypocritical given her apparent rejection of Spotify on the principle that music shouldn't be given away from free).
Reports have since emerged, however, that Swift's music isn't available on Music Key after all, hence Bragg's apology. Only Swift's music videos — which are already on YouTube — are a part of the service.
So where exactly did the confusion come from? The Guardian reports that Swift's back catalogue albums — although not the newly released 1989 — were part of an pre-release test version available only within the company. This version was used in a demo for journalists, leading to reports that the albums would be available through the service. Now that members of the public are using Music Key, however, they have found that Swift's albums have been removed.
Read's Bragg's full letter below:
I want to apologise to Taylor Swift for accusing her of selling her soul to Google. I have learned that her music will not now be available on the new YouTube Music Key service, which launched this week. This is despite a number of credible sources stating in the last seven days that it would be – including yesterday's CMU newsletter.
My criticism was based on the fact that Swift's back catalogue was the central feature of a demonstration of the Music Key services given to journalists in London last week, as outlined in the article below. In response to specific questions about Swift's music, journalists were assured that her back catalogue would be available on the service, including the free tier. This fact was reported in the Observer article that I linked to on my first post on this subject.
Learning that Google were using Swift to promote Music Key gave me the impression that her music was going to be front and centre of their launch, the implication being that her Spotify boycott was a corporate power play, rather than an attempt by an artist to make the point that music has value.
I now realise that I was mistaken in this assumption and wish to apologise to Ms Swift for questioning her motives.
The fact that our music is widely available for free on the internet is a problem that all artists struggle with. While so much material is instantly accessible on YouTube, subscription streaming services will always find it a challenge to build enough users to make music viable for artists, who at the moment seem to be at the end of the queue for remuneration.
The time will surely come when content creators have to band together to challenge deals done between rights holders and service providers, details of which are kept from artists and their representatives. If Ms Swift is going to lead that fight for transparency, she will have my full support.
I would like to add that I will be boycotting the first media outlet to use the headline 'Bragg makes Swift apology'