There has been plenty of turbulence around Spotify the last year or so. Radiohead front figure Thom Yorke’s attacks on the artist royalty pay out model caused the most stir, Yorke urging all artists to boycott the the music service and “fight this Spotify thing“, dubbing the service as the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse“. Spotify, Yorke argued, is the “last gasp of the old industry“, a greedy industry who for decades has been the major stakeholder in music sales and whose royalty and payment structures rips off artists.
Spotify’s pay out model is yet again in the spotlight as country pop icon Taylor Swift decided to pull her entire catalogue from Spotify on Monday 3 November. Although no official reason was given, an article Swift wrote for the Wall Street Journal in June of this year, suggests that what artists are paid is at the core. In the article, Swift wrote of the value of an artist’s work:
In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.
Swift’s decision seems to be a call-out to all artists to reject services that devalue their work through low payouts. Other sources suggests it could be an attempt to drive sales of her new album, 1989, expected to have the biggest first-week sales of any album in the U.S. since The Eminem Show in 2002. Swift is one of the few artists who still drives massive sales, not just streams.
Spotify was quick to reach out to the artist and officially beg her to return through witty statements on twitter, using words from Taylor Swift songs:
— Spotify (@Spotify) November 3, 2014
Taylor Swift is one of the streaming service’ hottest artist. During the last 30 days alone, more than 16 million people have played her tracks on Spotify, and her single “Shake it off” is the most streamed track on Spotify the last week, topping the list with over 3 millions plays.
What could be the implications of Swift’s exodus for Spotify? Swift’s departure from Spotify is definitely a setback for the streaming music service, writes David Holmes for the Pando Daily – “How can a company claim to offer the best music service in the world if it doesn’t include what will almost certainly be the year’s best-selling album?”
Holmes suggests furthermore Apple could be a dangerous rival to Spotify in the coming months. With the forthcoming relaunch of iTunes incorporating Beats Music, Apple could “offer exclusive (and very lucrative) exclusive digital download promotions, like it did with Beyonce’s last album,” Holmes says, giving the following warning: “Huge artists like Swift could conceivably enter into an agreement with Apple to sell a new record on iTunes for its first week, before windowing it onto Apple’s streaming music exclusively. And with exclusive rights to the industry’s biggest names, Apple could annihilate Spotify and the rest with little effort“.
The future of music is still in the making.
You can read about Spotify’s royalty pay outs here.