AMAs: Artists split on Spotify after Taylor Swift controversy

Diana Ross, left, presents the Dick Clark Award for Excellence to Taylor Swift.
(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Taylor Swift made headlines earlier this month after making the decision to pull her entire discography off the online streaming service Spotify.

Though music industry pundits have heralded Swift’s move as historic, taking a stand against the payment model of streaming services, many artists find themselves straddling the line: Make their music as accessible as possible using such services or retake control of their art by ensuring premium prices are paid for its consumption.

At Sunday’s American Music Awards, Swift’s watershed moment – and her album’s instant-platinum sales numbers – were all the buzz on the red carpet.


“Each artist has the right to decide how they’re going to put their stuff out,” Wyclef Jean said. “I think that Taylor Swift reminded us that the power is still in the hands of the artist and I respect that.”

But for husband-and-wife folk-pop artists Us the Duo (Michael and Carissa Rae Alvarado), they believe streaming is a critical outlet for getting more ears to hear their music.

“As a new artist and emerging talent, I think Spotify is an amazing tool,” Michael Alvarado said. “Once you get to [Swift’s] level, the pricing aspect of Spotify isn’t good. It’s not in the artist’s favor, but for emerging talent, it’s perfect.”

Us the Duo also isn’t complaining because they have benefited from the situation immensely. Known for their viral mash-ups, the pair recorded a cover of Swift’s “Shake it Off” single after she yanked her music, and their version became the No. 1 entry on Spotify’s viral charts.

“Same Love” crooner Mary Lambert said she understands both sides of the argument.

“In some form, it’s nice to be paid for your music and Spotify, however small the amount is, I think, is the lesser of two evils [between] pirating and Spotify,” she said. “But, with an artist of her caliber pulling that off, it’s a privilege [many artists don’t have].”

Lambert focuses on the art and is just happy that people are listening, but she realizes that the music industry is a business and her label does care about its shareholders and making money, she said.


“I would like to buy a beach house, but I believe you can buy a beach house ethically,” she said. “I believe you don’t have to sell out or be an awful person to get it.”

When Swift accepted the newly created Dick Clark Award for Excellence on the AMAs stage, she used her speech to further support her stance.

“What you did by going out and investing in music and albums is you are saying that you believe in the same thing that I believe in,” Swift said. “That music is valuable and music should be consumed in albums and albums should be consumed as art and appreciated.”

Swift’s “1989” became the first album of the year to go platinum. Her singles “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off” currently sit at Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100.

“She’s kind of paving the way for not letting these online streaming companies stream your song for little to no money,” said Jack Johnson of the pop rap duo Jack and Jack.

As the first to put her foot down, Us the Duo thinks, Swift and her stance are going to shake the streaming industry further.


“Give it five years,” Michael said. “I don’t know if [streaming] will even exist anymore and it’ll all be because of her.”