So the new Taylor Swift album, Red, is not available in Rhapsody. The fact that you’re reading this means you’ve already noticed. You’ve asked yourself, “Why can’t I stream this new album from one of my favorite artists on a service I’m paying for?” Here is your answer: Taylor Swift and her management made a decision not to make her new album available to Rhapsody’s million-plus subscribers for several months. It’s that simple. Except it’s not. At all.

Because let’s face it: Taylor Swift is not about alienating her fans. At Rhapsody, we count stuff, and we know we have hundreds of thousands of subscribers who listen to Taylor; we know that many of you are diehard fans who attend concerts, buy T-shirts, all that stuff. Is Taylor mad at you/us? I don’t think so. At all.

But like I said: not simple. Lemme do my best to explain; we’ll start with some basics: Rhapsody pays for every single time one of our members plays a song. The money we pay out goes to the people or companies that own the copyrights to the music: labels and publishers. From there, the money flows down to the dozens and sometimes hundreds of people who make it possible for you to enjoy music: songwriters, producers, engineers, performers, back-up singers, etc., right on down to the guy who sweeps the floors at the recording studio. The way this used to work is an artist would sell a piece of plastic called a “CD”, and regardless of whether you listened to that CD a hundred times (The Beach Boys!) or only once (The Fat Boys?), all those folks would split the cost of that piece of plastic, and that worked out just fine. Lately, instead of paying for plastic (or vinyl), a lot of us started paying for downloads, except of course for the millions of folks who didn’t pay anything at all; those folks really made things complicated.

So enter Rhapsody. We don’t deal in downloads and we’re certainly not free — we deal in 10 bucks a month for unlimited streaming of every song. Which may mean less money for any one specific artist in the short term, but again: We pay rights holders for every stream. This means that if you’re still streaming Red a year or even five years from now, the money’s still flowing down the, er, stream. We think this is a pretty good model: Doesn’t it seem fair that artists get paid each time you play their song, every time you play their song, rather than a single time when you pay a buck for it?

We believe the answer is…Yes! We believe the cumulative impact of all those streams over all those years will outweigh and outlast the impact of a single download. We believe that the model of access over ownership provides a level of convenience and accessibility that facilitates an unprecedented degree of music discovery — encouraging you to experience artists and genres you’d never knew to be so amazing, to engage with music you might never have heard of, let alone actually heard, were it not so effortless to do so. Most of all, we believe that more people listening to more music more frequently is better for everyone. We believe that, we want Taylor and artists like her to believe that, and if there’s anything standing in the way then we want to figure out a way to get past it.

That’s why I wanted to write this note to all of you. I’ve been at Rhapsody for six years, and I know that access over ownership is the future of experiencing music. The joy I’ve felt during all these years of music discovery has honestly enriched my life, and I want everyone to feel that, and the only way that works is if artists aren’t just tolerant of streaming, but vocally in favor of it. So let’s start the conversation and let’s hear everyone’s voices. Let’s post and Tweet and comment and just generally discuss this. And let’s let Taylor know how much it would mean to all of us to have her latest on Rhapsody, and, uh, let’s use this hash tag, because that’s what people do: #wherestaylor

Thanks for reading, thanks for listening,

Garrett Kamps (@gkamps)
Sr. Director, Content Programming