Unless you’re living under a rock, you probably already know that Taylor Swift yanked out her music from Spotify. It’s on the news, there’s #JustSayYes on social media, and there are playlists about such on the streaming service itself. At this point, some people might actually be sick and tired of hearing about the ruckus.
Most debates frame it as Spotify vs. Taylor Swift, but it seems it’s more like Spotify vs. Big Machine, the record label. Sadly, artists and consumers are being dragged into the crossfire in an already tumultuous battlefield that is the music industry.
Big Move, Big Star, Big Machine
For sure, Swift and her record label’s decision is nothing short of gutsy. And it seems that things are about to get bigger as more people weigh in on the matter.
But it seems that the decision is more for the label than for the artist. It is said that the move was a strategy to increase sales of the full 1989 album. That in turn will increase the value of Big Machine, which is rumored to be up for sale. That said, Swift’s family owns part of the label, though she have been openly hesitant about streaming for quite some time.
Show Me The Money!
Swift says that she doesn’t want to hand her work to something that doesn’t fairly compensate the creators of music. But Spotify says it had so far paid $2B in royalties to labels and publishers. Hence, the problem might really be with how the middlemen paid the artists.
Generally though, artists really get less than a cent from a play on streaming services (not just Spotify) that do pay. And this is from the services’ reps themselves, who discussed the matter in the recent 2014 Revolt Music Conference. What’s disheartening is that it seems this is better off for artists actually. This is because I just discovered that AM and FM radio are actually NOT obliged to pay labels or artists. Labels have even resorted to paying radio stations to have the music of their artists played!
Power to the People
I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift, but I did like her song “You Belong With Me.” While I have doubts about her motives, I believe her stand could benefit the artists that I do support (specially the least paid). But I’m not sold to her and Big Machine’s concept of pushing people to buy albums. Probably like other people, I rarely like all songs in a album so I rather make my own set. And that’s where the likes of Spotify come in.
Sadly, it’s still a free-for-all world where artists, labels, services and music fans are trying to have it their way. Let’s just hope that we arrive at a fair compromise before another disruptive technology sweeps us off our feet. But come to think of it, it might be what we actually need to finally sort things out.