The back and forth between Taylor Swift and Spotify isn’t showing signs of abating just yet. After a blog post from Spotify(1) in which founder Daniel Ek said Spotify had paid around $2 million for plays of Taylor Swift’s music on Spotify, Scott Borchetta, CEO of the label that Taylor Swift is signed to tried to paint a different picture.
According to Borchetta they recieved less than $500,000(2) in the past 12 months for “domestic streaming” of her songs. At first I read this and thought who’s lying here because someone has to be. But I looked again, Borchetta, for some bizarre reason, is only counting domestic streams. Apparently the money paid from outside the US doesn’t count as earnings for Taylor Swift. He’s not disagreeing with Daniel Ek, he’s not disputing what Spotify has paid, but he’s trying to create the impression that Ek is lying and that Spotify do not pay as much as they claim. I can’t help but feel that when you get to trying put spin on numbers like this you’ve already lost the argument. It feels sneeky and dishonest and makes you doubt whatever else is said afterwards.
Another quote from Borchetta got me as well.
The facts show that the music industry was much better off before Spotify hit these shores
You know what, he may well be correct, though I’m not sure he is. I guess it depends how far back you go, the music industry has been struggling with issue that came along before Spotify did. But I don’t think that’s the entire picture anyway. I think there’s some misaligned cause and effect here that is mentioned in Ek’s blog entry(1). For instance Taylor Swift released her debut album in 2006 and I’m pretty sure the music industry was better off at some point before 2006 so it could be argued that the music industry was better off before Taylor Swift starting releasing records. It’s a silly example but I don’t doubt that any declines prior to Spotify hitting the US were already trends prior to 2011 (again see Ek’s blog post).
But the other problem with this statement is that the cat is out of the bag. Type setters were better off before computers came along but they can’t do anything about them can they? Essentially the music industry was better off before the internet came along but Borchetta isn’t going to pull Swift’s music from the web is he? No, he has to work with it, just like he’ll have to work with streaming services becuase they’re here, and whether he likes it or not, for the forseeable future they’re here to stay. The landscape of music consumption has been constantly changing since we started recording music from vinyl, to tape, to CD, to digital. Streaming it appears is a furter step and Spotify would not exist if there wasn’t an appetite for this type of consumption out there.
I’d put money on Taylor Swift’s music ending up back on Spotify, she’ll have gained a few extra album sales by not having it on there for a few weeks, and as I mentioned in my previous post(3) she’s gotten plenty of publicity from this argument. She’s well within her rights to pull her music from a marketplace that she doesn’t feel is giving her value for money but I feel the statements that have gone along with it have not been helpful for the general argument and for making the case their trying to put forward. From using language better suited to the days of Napster and spinning numbers like this to paint a worse picture of Spotify. There’s a discussion to be had here if artists genuinely feel they aren’t getting value for money but Spotify appears to me to be amongst the types of services they should be working with not against.
Is streaming really a problem for music?