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!

Ownership Matters: Pay it forward, buy the album

Amanda Palmer recently wrote an interesting article that used personal experience to show how fans truly want to pay artists they love.

Amanda spent years as a street performer—an eight foot bride on a box who gave out flowers to anyone who tipped her. Of the millions of passers-by, Amanda said some people watched her performance and gave nothing. Some watched and tipped upwards of $20. Some watched, enjoyed the performance, and left personal notes or gifts since they didn’t have money.

When Amanda was in The Dresden Dolls, fans would approach her after concerts with $10 bills, admitting they burned copies of her CDs since they couldn’t find them in stores. They wanted to make up for it.

The big message Amanda learned from her experiences: “People actually like supporting the artists whose work they like. It makes them feel happy.”

In a time where free streaming services seem to dominate the music listening experience, it’s harder for fans to invest in the musicians they really appreciate. The money artists make early on from streaming services is a tiny fraction of what they could have made if those fans also bought the album when it came out.

It’s important that streaming fans buy albums and patronize their favorite artists. Media ownership enables fans to reward artists in a much different way from streaming. Physical album purchases pull all the money up front where it should be: it’s not resting on the uncertain future mathematics of streaming payouts from services like Spotify.

At Murfie, we’re all about providing modern, digital ownership in the cloud. Your ownership of physical CDs is boosted with the streaming and download service we provide for your collection. We have new CDs listed for sale, and you can buy any CD from any artist or store, or from sites like Amazon, and have it shipped directly to your Murfie collection. Murfie lets fans buy albums and support artists without sacrificing the convenience of streaming.

When you love an artist, no matter how you listen to their music, it feels great to invest in them and own a piece of it. Give it a try. “When people feel and know that you are keeping the channels open, doors open, airwaves unblocked, locks unlocked….they come,” says Palmer. “And they will pay their hard-earned to keep the content existing and the cycle continuing.”

Ownership Matters: Redbox Instant has shut down

On October 7th 2014, Redbox Instant officially shut down and discontinued their movie streaming service which only existed for 19 months.

With Redbox Instant, customers could pay a monthly fee to stream movies at home or on their mobile devices. Customers could also purchase electronic versions of movies, which were made available to them in their account for on-demand viewing anytime.

Since the company is no more, they offered refunds for the remainder of any unused monthly subscriptions. But the lingering question that customers are asking is: What happened to the digital movies I purchased?

Redbox posted an FAQ about this very question:

What happens to the movies I bought and stored in my digital locker? We’re exploring options for customers who purchased electronic versions of on-demand movies and will be providing that information to you soon. We appreciate your patience.

Do you know what that really means? “Be very, very worried, because you never really owned anything.” The FAQ was posted almost three weeks ago with no update to follow.

As we gain more convenient access to music and movies in the cloud, our ownership and control of this content is under assault. As the Redbox example points out, it doesn’t matter that you paid real money for a cloud copy of a movie—your access to that copy is controlled by a gatekeeper. And that gatekeeper can change the rules or even cease to exist at any point. Redbox Instant is not the first DRM service to shut down and leave customers high and dry after purchasing digital content. Within the last decade, Walmart, MSN, and Yahoo Music ended up announcing that customers would no longer have access to the digital content they paid for.

Contrast that with the ownership experience of physical media—your CDs and DVDs. Physical media puts you in total control. Ownership rights are well established. The formats are well documented. The only real downside to physical media is that it takes up real physical space. It’s less convenient than streaming.

And that’s why we built Murfie. We wanted to make real ownership of content in the cloud a reality. We’ve realized that vision for music. Our platform makes it ultra-convenient to really own CDs in the cloud. Check back soon about movies!