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Has Taylor's revenge on Spotify been just a little too swift?

As the US pop star takes her music away from the music server, Katie Wright asks whether this will set down a dangerous precedent for online streaming

When Taylor Swift decides to do something, she doesn't do it by halves. On the eve of the release of her new album, she pulled her back catalogue from Spotify, a move which preceded huge sales.

"I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music," Swift told Yahoo Music, the opening salvo in an ongoing war of words.

Her fifth album, 1989, sold 1.3 million copies in its first week alone, far outstripping what Swift would have made in revenue at Spotify's rate of around £4,000 per million plays.

But in the long run, it's a mistake said Spotify's Daniel Ek, claiming Swift would have netted something in the region of £4m a year if she'd left her albums on his "freemium" service, where paying users shell out £10 a month. Illegal downloads, on the other hand, pay nothing.

"Spotify has paid more than $2bn to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists," Ek blogged. "And sure enough, if you looked at the top spot on (piracy site) The Pirate Bay last week, there was 1989 ..."

So which is the real Spotify - pseudo-philanthropic saviour of the music industry or evil digital overload, rubbing its hands with glee every time another helpless band hands over its discography?

In reality, it's somewhere in between. Clearly Spotify is detrimental to artists who, like Swift, are already monumentally successful, as it dissuades fans from buying their music. However, record sales are declining in the vain battle against piracy. Record labels will keep on signing up to Spotify because they'd rather earn a fraction of what they would from traditional sales, and attract more fans for their musicians, than bite the hand that feeds. Other artists, like Coldplay, take a different approach, releasing their albums on stream later, so maybe Swift and Spotify will rekindle their relationship.

Given her outspoken stance, it's doubtful. "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," she said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed back in July. "I hope they don't underestimate themselves or undervalue their art."

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