Ownership Matters: Swift vs. free Spotify

In a move that shocked fans and media outlets, Taylor Swift pulled her entire catalog from Spotify on November 3rd without any advance notice. Swift was silent for a few days about the issue, and in the meantime Spotify asked her to bring back her music to the millions of fans who were already streaming it.

But when Swift responded on the issue a few days later, her reasoning became clear. It’s not that Swift doesn’t want people to stream her music—clearly people want to stream, and there’s no denying that. She just doesn’t believe Spotify’s model fairly compensates her for her work.

Some songwriters and big-name artists also question whether streaming payouts represent fair compensation. Album sales, unlike streaming, pull a large chunk of revenue forward for artists and songwriters.

If millions of fans are streaming Taylor Swift’s album on Spotify for free, it’s a near certainty that she’s selling fewer albums, and making less than she possibly could if everyone who listened to her album paid for it first. She also wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about the value of music.

Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek recently explained to artists that “The more we grow, the more we’ll pay you.” He’s asking people to trust him, to believe the numbers will add up in the future if everything goes as planned. But all this, in Swift’s opinion, still seems like a “grand experiment.”

Swift believes the definition of fair compensation is that everyone who listens should pay, and that playing without paying devalues music. “And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free,” says Swift.

Another artist, Amanda Palmer, has a different view. Palmer believes that not everyone who listens should have to pay, because the fans who truly want to support you will support you if they can. And for her, that is enough.

Something to think about is: you don’t have to pick between a streaming service and an album sale. You can buy the album, and stream it also. That’s the service we built at Murfie—streaming for your CD and vinyl collection from the web, your phone, tablet, and more. In great quality too.

Do you think everyone who listens to music should have to pay up front, or do you have a view like Amanda Palmer’s? Let us know in the comments!

Published by

Kayla Liederbach

I host a reggae radio show Wednesday nights at 7pm CT on 91.7fm WSUM-Madison called U DUB.

2 thoughts on “Ownership Matters: Swift vs. free Spotify”

  1. Nice move by the Taylor Swift Corporation to grab some headlines. She was just a vague pop-star name to me before this so-called controversy got brewed up.

    If Spotify can be believed, they are paying royalties based on number of plays and those fractional pennies add up to millions of dollars for the most popular artists. More importantly, they are introducing new artists to people like me who use Spotify as a different kind of radio station for background listening but who purchase albums or full-res downloads of music they want to own and hear in full audio quality.

    For the Taylor Swift Corporation I think this is more about the media coverage than the money.

    1. I agree with you, John. I do know that T. Swift is acting in the benefit of OTHER streaming services that her label supports, and it’s a PR move for sure. She’s also trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of the old music distribution model (i.e. album sales).

      Streaming music is great. I do however think Spotify’s payment model needs a lot of work in order to convince someone like me to use it. Say I pay $10/month for Spotify. $3 of that goes to Spotify, and my remaining $7 is distributed to master recording and publishing rights holders based on their current market share. That means * MY $7 * isn’t specifically going to the specific artists that * I * listen to and that * I * want to support. Like Amanda Palmer explained, fans truly want to support artists they love. I get fulfillment out of it. It’s not possible for me to support the artists I love with Spotify. I don’t want a fraction of any penny I pay to ever, ever go to someone like Miley Cyrus for example.

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