LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Singer Taylor Swift performs onstage during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
By now, there are probably very few people in this country (in the world, really) who aren’t aware that Taylor Swift has a new album on the way. Reputation is slated to drop this coming Friday, Nov. 10, but there is still some question about how it will be available for the masses to consume, at least in the beginning.
For most artists, it’s assumed (almost always correctly) that when a new song or album is released, it will be everywhere at once, so as to accrue the biggest first week possible. That means digital download stores like iTunes and Amazon, streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and the like and for the bigger names in the business, brick and mortar stores of all kinds.
The same can’t be said for Taylor Swift, who has had a strained relationship with streaming music ever since it first exploded in popularity. Three years ago, Swift took on the streaming industry by making her displeasure with low payout rates and the fact that those opting for free tiers could still access every bit of music public, and because of that, her album 1989 wasn’t available to stream for a long time. That didn’t stop it from becoming the bestselling title of 2014 and sending five songs into the top 10, so clearly, the country-turned-pop singer didn't miss out on much.
According to a report posted by the New York Times, executives at some of the larger streaming sites (which weren’t named in the piece) claimed that they didn’t believe Reputation would be available to stream upon its arrival, though even they weren’t sure. While it would be very strange for Reputation to never make it to streaming platforms, it wouldn’t be too odd for Swift to keep her latest full-length away from those sites, at least at first. She wouldn’t be the first to do so, though very few artists have tried to shun the all-powerful streaming giants. Adele decided not to upload her last album 25 to digital music destinations like Spotify and Apple Music until months after it was first released, which helped her secure the biggest first week of all time for a record.
It's also plausible that Swift has changed her mind, not necessarily because she has truly believes things have changed, but because she is smart enough to see what the public wants. The singer has uploaded all four of the songs already shared from her new album—“Look What You Made Me Do,” “...Ready For It?,” “Gorgeous” and most recently, “Call It What You Want”—across digital platforms from the get-go, so perhaps this time around she's fully embracing the new tech, and maybe Reputation will set new records in its first full frame.
A third option here is that it’s entirely possible that Swift, her team and her label have not decided what they will do and they haven’t yet settled on a strategy. It may come down to how well all four songs released thus far from Reputation are performing and what industry forecasters are suggesting the first week will look like. If the numbers are looking low for a Swift-sized opening (to put that in perspective, her last three albums started with more than one million units), streaming may be back on the table, though if sales projections continue to climb, they may opt out.
Swift likes to keep people guessing, so it's likely the world won't know if Reputation will be streamable until Friday at midnight, when it either is...or it isn't.