Björk Weighs In On Spotify Debate

The great Spotify debate rages on, and the latest artist to weigh in is Icelandic fairy queen Björk, who addressed the streaming service in an interview with Fast Company. Björk’s agonizing new album Vulnicura was born from her grief at the dissolution of her longterm romantic partnership with Matthew Barney, so when it leaked a full two months early, she said it was almost a relief to just get the thing out:

This has probably been the most impulsive album I’ve done. I just had to listen to my gut, what felt right. What threw me a lot was just how difficult it was. Every time I would want to skip it and just do a disco album I [couldn’t], because it was this big lump of songs I just had to deal with. Most people who go through a period of grief, it’s a process. It’s like chapters in a book: You do the first chapter and then you have to do the next chapter. In that sense it was a process that I wasn’t in control of. At that point I had had two years of things happening to me that I didn’t want to happen to me, so my Buddhist muscle had been well exercised. ‘Okay, another thing has happened to me that I didn’t want to happen to me! I have no choice but to deal with it.’ So in a strange way it was in the spirit of the album in that you don’t have a choice. And I was dying to get this album out and over and done with. So I think in a way it was a strange kind of blessing.

She may have dealt with the album’s leak in a zen way, but that doesn’t mean she wants it on a streaming service:

We’re all making it up as it goes, to be honest. I would like to say there’s some master plan going on [with the album release], but there isn’t. But a few months ago I emailed my manager and said, ‘Guess what? This streaming thing just does not feel right. I don’t know why, but it just seems insane.’

Obviously, this is a deeply personal album for Björk, and she seems to trust her feelings a lot as a guiding force in general. The way she describes her emotional reaction to the thought of streaming it makes perfect sense to me:

To work on something for two or three years and then just, Oh, here it is for free. It’s not about the money; it’s about respect, you know? Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it. But maybe Netflix is a good model. You go first to the cinema and after a while it will come on ­Netflix. Maybe that’s the way to go with streaming. It’s first physical and then maybe you can stream it later.

Maybe I’m a rockist at heart still, but it feels way more understandable for Björk to say this about her music than when Taylor Swift said the same. All the business research revealing the financial motivation that was probably behind Swift’s decision might be informing my reaction too. Björk’s comparison to the Netflix model seems like a pretty good compromise. Money or “artistry” aside, when you have the guts to completely bare your broken heart after the father of your child dumps you, I can imagine not wanting to let people stream that for free.

[Photo by Inez and Vinoodh.]

Tags: Björk, Spotify