So Who’s Telling the Truth in the Taylor Swift vs. Spotify War?

You can scream all you want, but the future of music disruption is streaming. Get use to “renting” music the same way you rent movies, TV shows and software. Yes, there will always be room in the marketplace for physical product and download-to-own digital files, but for the most part, most of us will transition over to access to music instead of possession of it.

The Taylor Swift-Spotify spat is an anomaly, a kerfluffle that’s part of this transition–but it’s still worth examining.  Before you form any kind of opinion on streaming and whether a company like Spotify is good or evil, it’s important to understand everything that’s involved on both side.

For example, it’s true that Spotify pays out pennies for, say, 500,000 plays of a song. But what does that stat actually mean? It means that 500,000 people listened to the song once. It took half a million plays to reach those half a million people.

Compare that to radio. To reach half a million people with a song, a radio station with a good-sized audience only needs to play it once or twice. Same reach and coverage. And how much does an artist get paid for that coverage?  In Canada, a couple of cents. In the US, nothing. Zero.

The details get more interesting the deeper you go.  Let’s start with Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, and his side of the story.

We’re trying to build a new music economy that works for artists in a way the music industry never has before. And it is working – Spotify is the single biggest driver of growth in the music industry, the number one source of increasing revenue, and the first or second biggest source of overall music revenue in many places. Those are facts. But there are at least three big misconceptions out there about how we work, how much we pay, and what we mean for the future of music and the artists who create it. Let’s take a look at them.

Before you go any further, you should read the full article at Hypebot. Ek does offer a spirited defence and explanation of the whole concept of streaming.

Once you’re done and you’ve had a chance to think about what Ek says, move over to Billboard. They analyze the good and the bad with Ek’s position.




Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 38446 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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