Taylor Swift and the music industry's next $20
Play • 1 hr 24 min

I have this theory that music is usually about five years ahead of the rest of media in terms of its relationship to tech—whether that’s new formats based on new tech, like vinyl to CDs; new business models like streaming; or simply being disrupted by new kinds of artists who use new forms of promotion like TikTok in unexpected ways. I’ve always thought that if you can wrap your head around what’s happening to the music industry, you can pretty much see the future of TV or movies or the news or whatever it is, because the music industry just moves that fast.

I was talking about this with my friend Charlie Harding, the co-host of Switched on Pop, and he said that he thinks the upcoming Taylor Swift Eras Tour is itself the end of an era in music — that the age of cheap streaming services is coming to an inevitable conclusion, and that something has to change in order for industry to sustain itself in the future. 

So, in this episode, Charlie and I walk through a brief history of the music business—which, despite its ever-changing business models, is permanently trying to find something to sell you for $20 whether that’s the music itself, all-access streaming, merch, and even NFTs—using Taylor Swift as a case study. We map her big moves against the business of music over time to try to see if this really is the end of an era. And maybe more importantly, to try and figure out if the music industry can sustain and support artists who are not Taylor Swift, because streaming, all by itself, definitely cannot.


Switched on Pop

Charlie’s first appearance on Decoder: Good 4 who? How music copyright has gone too far - The Verge 

Why Amazon VP Steve Boom just made the entire music catalog free with Prime - The Verge 

Spotify launching in the US at 8AM tomorrow, open to all pre-registered users - The Verge

Metallica sued Napster 15 years ago today - The Verge

Taylor Swift calls Apple Music free trial 'shocking, disappointing' in open letter - The Verge

Taylor Swift versus Ticketmaster: the latest on the tour that may break up a giant - The Verge

The DOJ has reportedly opened an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster's owner     

How fandom built the internet as we know it, with Kaitlyn Tiffany - The Verge

Steve Aoki on the blockchain, the metaverse, and the business of music - The Verge




Decoder is a production of The Verge, and part of the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Today’s episode was produced by Hadley Robinson, Creighton DeSimone and Jackie McDermott and it was edited by Callie Wright.

The Decoder music is by Breakmaster Cylinder. Our Editorial Director is Brooke Minters. Our Sr. Audio Director is Andrew Marino and our Executive Producer is Eleanor Donovan.  

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