Spotify CEO Daniel EK recently responded to claims by Taylor Swift and her label that his business is bad for music. On his company’s blog, Ek outlined a point-by-point analysis of Swift and her label president Scott Borchetta’s argument.
One of Ek’s claims is that “Spotify has paid more than two billion dollars to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists."
Borchetta has responded with a resounding “did not!” to Ek’s claims.
“Over the last year, what Spotify has paid is the equivalent of less than 50,000 albums sold,” Borchetta claims. Borchetta has also cited the number $496,044.
“We paid Taylor’s label and publisher roughly half a million dollars in the month before she took her catalog down,” said Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s global head of communications and public policy.
“The facts show that the music industry was much better off before Spotify hit these shores,” Borchetta accused. "Don’t forget this is for the most successful artist in music today. What about the rest of the artists out there struggling to make a career?”
What Borchetta ignored was Ek’s point that Spotify is not selling albums. They are selling individual plays. And every play gives the artist money, even if that money is only a penny per play or less. To compare it to “album sales” is an apples/oranges mistake.
"First of all, let’s be clear about what a single stream – or listen – is: it’s one person playing one song one time. So people throw around a lot of stream counts that seem big and then tell you they’re associated with payouts that sound small. But let’s look at what those counts really represent. If a song has been listened to 500 thousand times on Spotify, that’s the same as it having been played one time on a U.S. radio station with a moderate sized audience of 500 thousand people. Which would pay the recording artist precisely … nothing at all. But the equivalent of that one play and its 500 thousand listens on Spotify would pay out between three and four thousand dollars. The Spotify equivalent of ten plays on that radio station – once a day for a week and a half – would be worth thirty to forty thousand dollars.”
Swift herself still seems preoccupied with the “perception of value” argument she has been pushing. If her fans don’t pay out of pocket for her music, they won’t think it’s worth anything. Never mind that most of those same fans play games and use apps on their smart phones that they never pay a dime for, yet the developers mysteriously manage to make millions.
Think about this: Did you pull out a credit card to get to read this article?
Still, Swift backs her label’s play.
"With Beats Music and Rhapsody you have to pay for a premium package in order to access my albums. And that places a perception of value on what I’ve created. On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.”
Swift also pitched a little hissy that the media did not pay attention to her op-ed when she wanted them to, but are now asking why she is jerking her music away from fans who can’t afford to or don’t want to buy them out-of-pocket.
"I wrote about this in July, I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. This shouldn’t be news right now. It should have been news in July when I went out and stood up and said I’m against it. And so this is really kind of an old story."
When told that people are upset that they can’t stream her music, Swift gave her best Marie Antoinette response.
“Well, they can still listen to my music if they get it on iTunes."