Singer, songwriter and pop star Taylor Swift (27) filed documents to trademark a website that will “feature non-downloadable multi-media content in the nature of audio recordings.” Per TMZ, the description of the website is considered to be a new streaming service, according to industry insiders. The alleged service mark application was filed on February 16th of this year.
Despite Taylor Swift’s unassuming youthful appearance and her innocent public persona, the songstress has involved herself in a few celebrity feuds and public spats with corporate giants. The “Shake It Off” singer shook off Spotify, removing all her songs and albums from the popular music streaming platform just days after Spotify publicly criticized the then 24-year-old artist, for not immediately making her album 1989, available to stream. Similarly, in 2015 Swift joined independent labels in attacking Apple’s plans not to pay artists royalties during the three-month free trial when Apple Music streaming service initially launched. It should be noted that Swift eventually made amends with Apple and soon began to star in commercials for the tech giant after they tweaked their artist royalty agreement.
Nevertheless, Swift has been vocal about large companies dishing out freebies at the artist’s expense. The songstress joined the heated debate about music royalties in the age of streaming, digital downloads and YouTube. As it stands, Spotify pays artists and rightsholders of each song “between $0.006 and $0.0084” per stream, depending on how many paid users the service has, in which country the user is streaming the song and currency values in each country. For now Swift’s entire catalogue is still absent from the Spotify.
“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for,” Swift said earlier this year to The Wall Street Journal. “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.”
With that business model in mind, it appears Swift is jumping head first into the very industry in which she has roundly criticized over the years. While Swift hasn’t formally announced this business endeavor, based on her past comments and behavior one can construe that her service will be very artist friendly. Swift isn’t the first music artist to take part in this business. Rapper, music mogul and astute businessman Jay-Z unveiled a celebrity-backed subscription-based streaming service Tidal in 2014 after purchasing it for $56 million. After a rocky rollout and a steady stream of bad press (some covered by Gotham City Esq), Tidal recovered nicely. In fact, Sprint recently invested $200 million in the streaming service.
Although Swift’s new project will likely keep her busy for the rest of the year, Ed Sheeran (Swift’s constant collaborator) recently revealed she isn’t neglecting her music. He told the BBC: “Taylor [Swift] isn’t going to be releasing until probably the end of this year—Christmas is the smartest time to release because that’s when everyone buys records.” Furthermore, the busy “Shake It Off” singer is also flexing her entrepreneurial muscles by releasing a line of music products offering fans the chance to get their hands on her guitars and drumsticks.
From a legal standpoint, a detailed review of the filing shows that streaming music is one of several categories filed under the SWIFTIES mark. It is not uncommon for trademark filings to list all of the categories currently in use or to be used in the future. This eliminates any unwanted competition for the brand. In effect, it is a way to cover all bases. The filing moves to the public opposition phase in April. That is the point where other trademark users may object to the SWIFTIES application. She may even receive private inquiries and negotiation requests from Corporations that feel her name may affect their brand (as an example, the SWIFFER brand may see the filing and negotiate with Swift to further clarify her mark). However, at some point, Swift will need to demonstrate that the mark is in use in all of the categories at the point of approval. Otherwise, some categories will need to be removed.
Assuming the filing is narrow and the streaming service moves forward, Swifts savvy team of business advisors seems to keep her well-protected. As an artist, it is always prudent to surround yourself with a good legal and financial team.
Although Swift has yet to reveal any price point or business models for her still unnamed streaming service, there’s no doubt that the platform will be in place in order to fix what Swift sees as unfair business practices by other services. As the internet seems to be rushing to the inevitably of free music for all, apparently certain heavyweight artists are taking matters into their own hand to make sure that doesn’t happen. While the average consumer may scoff at the idea of multi-millionaire artists simply being greedy, Swift and Jay-Z’s intentions may actually lean towards newer, struggling artists trying to make a buck. The debate rages on.