Here’s the Truth of Why Taylor Swift Broke Up with Spotify (Hint: Follow the Money)

One of the big breakups of 2014–from a news coverage standpoint, anyway–was Taylor Swift’s announcement that she was pulling all her music from Spotify and that they were never, ever getting back together.  This unleashed an avalanche of coverage and opinion critical of Spotify and streaming music services in general.  But most people just heard the phrases “Taylor Swift hates Spotify” and “streaming rips off artists” and didn’t bother going any deeper into the story.  Let me break it down for you.

Taylor and her management company/record label Big Machine were happy to work with Spotify IF her music was only available on the paid tier of Spotify’s service. Spotify’s licensing deals calls for lower payouts to rights holders for their free ad-supported streams because the amount of money they collect for that tier is lower than the paid one.  Taylor/Big Machine didn’t want any part of that because they placed value on the art of her music.  It should not be available to consumers for free.

Gotcha.  Totally with you so far.  So when Spotify refused, Big Machine yanked Taylor’s music. Besides, her 1989 album was selling by the hundreds of thousands, yielding some nice fat margins. Why cannibalize those sales for streams?

It took about three tenths of a second for people to poke holes in that argument.  To listen to Taylor’s music for free, all one had to do is flip over to YouTube or Vevo and there it was. All of it.  Why would she oppose one free service and tacitly support another?

Smart financial planning, that’s what.  YouTube views are littered with ads and under the way payouts are structured (total views and subscriptions), the payouts by YouTube and substantially higher than what Spotify and others pay.  Her “Blank Spaces” video has been seen over a quarter of a billion times. Add in all the other views of her stuff and you’ll see that Swift has one of the ten most profitable channels on YouTube.  And based on 341,711,430 views on YouTube/Vevo, Big Machine should have received a cheque for $4,110,788.52.

Follow the money. It always leads to the truth.

(More details and links regarding this story at Hypebot)



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

4 thoughts on “Here’s the Truth of Why Taylor Swift Broke Up with Spotify (Hint: Follow the Money)

  • January 6, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Hmmmm… so if I’m understanding this correctly, it’s actually more supportive of artists for a music lover to check them out over YouTube/Vevo than Spotify. It still costs you 15 seconds of your life to watch the ad, but they get more revenue from the sounds of it.

  • March 30, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Instead of joining the ranks of uninformed “Taylorbashers” you could have and should have followed the money further and way more correctly. 70% of every Spotify subscribers monthly fee goes straight to the record companies. The “big three” (Sony, Warner and Universal) owns close to 45% of Spotify and get another 13-14% procent of the revenue. They then pay the artists way less than 1% and zero to the musicians, arrangers and producers. Check their parking lots. Sales are in free fall but the BMW count is rising. Spotify is the biggest scam in the history of the “music industry” which says a lot if you know that history…


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