What Taylor Swift Could Learn From Uber About Spotify

Yes, Spotify is disruptive, but she's missing an opportunity in breaking up with the popular music-streaming service.


I was in Las Vegas this week and the taxi driver taking me to the airport asked me what I thought of Uber, the company whose ride sharing service UberX is currently invading Philadelphia. Apparently, the company is also setting its sights on Vegas. After I told him (I’m a fan of the service), I asked him what he thought of Uber. He said, “I’m not entirely sure, but things are always changing in this world and we have to change with them.” Smart guy.

Which brings me to Taylor Swift.

On Monday, the pop star announced that she was pulling her music off of the popular music service Spotify. She’s never been a fan: “Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically,” she previously wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “People are still buying albums, but now they’re buying just a few of them.”

I get it. We all get it. Streaming services like Spotify pay music artists less and expose their products to potential piracy. Swift wants to go back to the good old days of my own youth, when people in America were free to eat fatty foods and drive gas-guzzling cars and pop stars could rake in zillions from the sales of their LP albums and 45 RPM singles.

But here’s the reality: No one cares about Taylor Swift’s money woes.

We don’t care that she’s only making a million-zillion dollars this year instead of a million-zillion-zillion dollars that she could be making if those damned streaming services weren’t so greedy themselves. We don’t care that her music is her art (by the way, it’s OK, but it’s really not art). We don’t care that people can get pirated versions of her songs for free online. To the 99% of us, Taylor Swift makes a boatload of money, not just from her music but from her concerts, endorsements and other appearances. Her complaints are about as meaningful to us as an investment banker complaining about the price of real estate in Manhattan.

Swift is a musician, and she’s also a businesswoman. She has to be in today’s business-oriented music world. So to that end I have these words of advice to Swift, both as a fan and a business owner:  You’re wrong to fight Spotify.  You should be embracing the service.  It’s for your own good.

The taxi industry is being disrupted by Uber and Lyft. The banking industry is being disrupted by Lending Tree, Kabbage and Can Capital. The credit card industry is being disrupted by Apple, Google and PayPal. The hotel industry is being disrupted by AirBnB. The auto industry is being disrupted by Tesla. Get it? The world is changing. Even the taxi driver in Vegas realizes that. Stop denying reality. Embrace the change. And profit from it. But how?

Instead of fighting Spotify, Swift can work closer with the service. Her music is her core product, but it’s only one part of her overall revenue potential. She has an enormous brand and a huge following. And Spotify, if leveraged the right way, can be a great vehicle to expand her brand and increase her appeal for more and higher-paid concerts and endorsements.  She can be doing more to promote Spotify. She can position herself as an ambassador of the service. She can offer to do special songs, playlists or concerts designed only for Spotify users.

Why would she do this? Because maybe she can trade these promotions into higher royalties or more of a revenue share from the service. And she can leverage the service’s far-reaching brand to expand her own. She can position herself as a champion of change and a fan of streaming technology, which is clearly the future. Instead of throwing a hissy-fit, her fans can see her as someone who enjoys what they enjoy and appreciates why so many of us subscribe to the service, and services like it.

Downloading music replaced record stores and streaming music services will soon replace those that provide downloaded music. Self service machines are replacing people in supermarkets and drugstores. Keyless check-ins are replacing hotel staffs. The Internet is replacing traditional cable TV. E-commerce is replacing brick and mortar.

The way my clients and I are doing business today has changed significantly from even 10 years ago — we have people working remotely; we get our services online; we receive payments and do our billing without printing paper; we have access to more marketing data; and we have the ability to communicate and collaborate with customers and partners anywhere in the world instantaneously. New technology is replacing the old. The smart business people I know have adapted and embraced this change. Even the Vegas cab driver knows this. And I’m sure Taylor Swift is as smart as he is.

Follow @GeneMarks on Twitter.