Taylor Swift calls Spotify a ‘start-up with no cash flow’ in Vanity Fair interview over Apple Music

Taylor Swift Vanity Fair

September cover of Vanity Fair

Taylor Swift is being featured on the cover of the September issue of Vanity Fair (view the full cover below the fold), and at the center of the interview within the high profile magazine is the pop star’s telling of her recent episode with Apple. Plans to not compensate artists during Apple Music’s three-month free trial period prompted Swift to publish an open letter explaining why her latest album 1989 wouldn’t be available on their new music streaming service. Apple quickly moved to change that policy and Swift’s album was notably highly promoted on Apple Music at launch. In the interview with Vanity Fair, Taylor Swift detailed her exchange with Apple while comparing it to a similar experience with Spotify that had a different outcome…

Author Ad Placeholder
Will only appear on redesign env.

Swift says she wrote the open letter in the middle of the night, only reading it to her mom and no one else before publishing it, after a friend sent her a screenshot of the terms of their Apple Music contract:

“I wrote the letter at around four A.M.,” Swift says. “The contracts had just gone out to my friends, and one of them sent me a screenshot of one of them. I read the term ‘zero percent compensation to rights holders.’ Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll write a song and I can’t sleep until I finish it, and it was like that with the letter.”

The pop star expressed surprise at Apple’s quick and positive reaction to her open letter — while calling Spotify a “start-up with no cash flow” in the process:

“Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about,” she says. “And I found it really ironic that the multi-billion-dollar company reacted to criticism with humility, and the start-up with no cash flow reacted to criticism like a corporate machine.”

Swift also mentioned during the interview that she worried about how people would respond to her stance against Apple Music at the time — noting it was about starting artists and not established ones like herself — after receiving some degree of criticism from her previous complaint over Spotify’s business model and artist compensation:

“My fears were that I would be looked at as someone who just whines and rants about this thing that no one else is really ranting about.”

In the end, both Taylor Swift and Apple’s leadership came out looking positive — and Apple Music launched with her and her fanbase’s support —while she still holds 1989 from Spotify over their ad-backed free-tier for streaming her album. Apple Music is paid-only aside from the initial three-month trial period and the only similar service that offers her full catalog.

Taylor Swift Apple Music

You can read the full interview from Vanity Fair.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. AeronPeryton - 8 years ago

    “why the world is her apple.” *budum PISSSH!*

  2. vxxxcv - 8 years ago

    Well…simply empty peace of meat.Shag her and go away.

    • flaviosuave - 8 years ago

      Something tells me you’ve never shagged anything in your life except a cutout hole in a teddy bear. Grow the hell up.

      • vxxxcv - 8 years ago

        I shag woman with tits not like this peace of bones.

  3. incredibilistic - 8 years ago

    That’s pretty damning! I’m sure if Spotify had to do it all over again they’d react differently to Swift’s criticism of their business model. The last thing they need right now is bad press.

    • PhilBoogie - 8 years ago

      While I agree that no commercial company needs bad press, I like the fact that Spotify just does their own thing. Responding to the likes of artists like Taylor Swift would not be a good thing and would show they have a spine like a bratwurst; easily bend.

  4. Rasmussen (@Twitboydk) - 8 years ago

    Im back with Spotify. If I had not already left Apple Music and gone back, this Swift story would have made me do it :-D

  5. chrisl84 - 8 years ago

    “no cash flow”…Taylor I dont think you know what that term means.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

      Don’t be so cocky about it. Her father is a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch, so I’m sure her father teaches her all about cash flow and the principals of finance. Don’t think she’s a dumb blonde.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

      What’s funny is because of her father, she probably knows more about finance than you will ever know. She certainly has a ton of money and i’m sure her father is helping her manager his finances and explains everything to her.

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        Do you tools know what NO cash flow means? Cash Flow can either be positive or negative…its cant be nonexistance…Sorry but I am an accountant so she most certainly does not know more than I do.

    • Fadi Maha (@FADITWEET) - 8 years ago

      Swift, not my favorite musician, but she is very accurate in that Spotify has “no cash flow”. Spotify themselves admit this.

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        Bull crap, you are uneducated much like the rest of the fools commenting back to me. Cash Flow is NOT revenue. Cash Flow is THE FLOW OF CASH IN AND OUT of a business. It can be either POSITIVE or NEGATIVE. NO CASH FLOW does not exist in a company cutting CHECKS.

    • Charlie Shi - 8 years ago

      @chrisl84 I’m pretty sure by “no cash flow” Swift means that they have a net cash flow of 0. She just simplified the wording, and you’re over analyzing it like the mad accountant that you are. Besides, if there is cash inflow then there is obviously revenue in the business, it might not be profitable, but they are still making an income.

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        I know what she MEANT……That was my quoting of the meme “Dont know what that word means” as a joke but then get jumped down my throat for it by people with no sense of humor.

  6. lkrupp215 - 8 years ago

    I’m thinking the FTC/FCC should be investigating Taylor Swift for anti-competitive behavior regarding her music catalog and where she chooses to withhold it. Maybe Spotify can send a letter to the government like they did about Apple.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.