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 [BLOG] Opinion: Taylor Swift Ditches Spotify, Earns My Guarded Respect 
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Joined: Fri May 10, 2013 12:26 pm
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Spotify's payout structure has been one of the hottest debates in the music industry since the company announced that a song's rights holder receives “between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream in royalties” last winter. Taylor Swift's recent decision to not release her new album, “1989”, on the music streaming service raised a few eyebrows, but when she subsequently removed all of her back catalog, it caused massive outcry from both the public and the industry. But people seem torn on whether to praise her for taking a stand on what musicians should be paid for their work, or whether they should condemn her for not embracing the current state of the music industry and making her music available to everyone.

There are two important things to remember before passing judgment of Ms. Swift: The first being that Spotify's estimate of their payout per stream is, by their own admission, “highly flawed”. They actually use a more complex formula that creates far greater variation in their payout than can be accurately predicted on a “per Stream” basis. This could mean more money for an artist, or less, depending on a number of other factors than simply the number of times people listened to a certain song.

The second thing to remember is that Taylor Swift is already the second richest woman in music. She made $64,000,000 last year and this new album is the only album so far this year to go platinum. In fact, it has the highest first week sales of any album in 12 years. She can afford to take chances like this. She's already made a tremendous amount of money off of the album, and it's only been out for 11 days.

What these things add up to is that, financially speaking, this is a little more complex than it appears at first glance. Swift is already in a position to do whatever she wants with her music because people will buy it regardless of how she sells it. The Spotify payout is a drop in the bucket for her, and she can easily do without it, without risking a great deal. And while Spotify is often demonized for it's low pay to musicians, it is a necessity of a company that has lost $200 million dollars since it's founding, due to incredibly high operating costs.

But I don't think that the most important thing about this story is the money. I think that more people should be paying attention to the fact that, for better or worse, Taylor Swift is taking a risk and trying something different. The music industry is in a transitional period right now, and it's hurting both the financial and artistic integrity of everyone involved. What is remarkable to me is how content the major players seem to be to continue on with an industry that seems held together with bubblegum and toothpicks. What makes Swift's decision so admirable to me is that she is in a position, both socially and financially, to take shots like this, and actually does.

Granted, her particular strategy might not be the most effective. She seems to be trying a philosophy from a different time, when consumers actually purchased whole albums, and they didn't expect to get their media for free online. Album sales fell nearly 15% in the first half of this year, while on demand streams were up 42%. Streaming is how people get their music now. It is a fact of the industry. I applaud Taylor Swift for actually trying something. I just wish it was something new.

Regardless, it is very nice to see one of the most recognizable people in music actually taking action on the current state of affairs. She has the money and influence to exact real change in a failing business, and I really hope she keeps up the pressure and brings others along. As people are so fond of saying, “The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one”. Ms. Swift just told everyone we have a problem. Now we need to figure out how to solve it.

Have an opinion on it? Leave a comment below to join the discussion.

Fri Nov 07, 2014 9:03 pm
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