Taylor Swift reportedly left music streaming service Spotify before a $6 million payday, claims the company’s CEO, Daniel Ek. Earlier in the week, Swift made headlines by pulling her song catalogue from the site, which provides free music streaming. Country music star Jason Aldean has also pulled his new album, and Jimmy Buffett famously asked Ek for a raise at a tech conference last year.
The complaint most artists have with the site is that they are not paid enough to have their music featured. This is something that Ek takes personally, as he stated in a blog post, saying that he does not see the site making money on “the backs of artists,” but rather giving fans and artists the ability to easily connect in an affordable way, which deters the consumer from resorting to things like illegal downloading and piracy to hear their favorite songs. He went on to say that Swift was being compensated fairly and as the market was dictating based on Spotify’s activity.
Ek also pointed out in his blog post that artists like Swift would have seen upwards of a $6 million payout per year by having their song catalogue featured on Spotify. By pulling their songs off the site, they do not see this large sum of money, and, as he also states in his post, it opens their music up to the even larger issue of piracy. The music business is still recovering from the piracy boom of the early 2000’s when file sharing was commonplace and not very regulated. Also, album sales have not recovered since the digital era, which has allowed consumers to purchase songs a la carte instead of buying the entire album in order to get one song that they want.
Swift, on the other hand, feels that music streaming websites like Spotify are a “grand experiment” and the numbers tell a completely different story. Artists featured on Spotify earn roughly between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream; an amount Swift and other musicians feel does not compensate them fairly for their life’s work. Swift said in a statement that she does not want to put her music in the hands of this experiment , which perpetuates the notion that music should be free and has no real value to the artist or the consumer.
Ek’s rebuttal to Swift’s claim was to offer up the fact that consumers can listen to artists for free via outlets like YouTube and Soundcloud with ad revenue for those sites netting the artists much less than they would make being featured on Spotify. He continues to maintain that streaming services like his site are the reasons why consumers are buying music again and not illegally downloading as much as they were in the days of Napster and other free file sharing sites.
There is also the thought that as artists land exclusive distribution deals with large retailers like Walmart and Target, it behooves them to encourage that market in lieu of the less expensive digital one being provided by music streaming sites. If an artist should decide to pull their albums off websites that feature their work for little to no cost, it will force the consumer to rely on a large retailer to obtain the music, therefore making the deal that much more lucrative to the artist.
Apparently to Taylor Swift, leaving Spotify before a $6 million payday was less about the amount of money itself and more about the concept of artists being compensated in a way that returns an investment on their work. Swift’s new album, 1989, is being distributed exclusively by Target, and has sold more than 1.2 million copies in the first week.
By Jennifer Gulbrandsen