Taylor Swift was asked recently about why she's not streaming her music so people can listen for free. This is what she said:
That leads to the streaming question. We've played the game of wondering whether you would have sold hundreds of thousands of fewer copies last week if the album had been available to people for free via those services. To a lot of people, you're a hero for reinforcing that music still has a value. And then there are some people who think you're standing in the way of progress by not giving in to the streaming model. What are your thoughts on all that?
If I had streamed the new album, it's impossible to try to speculate what would have happened. But all I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free. I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this summer that basically portrayed my views on this. I try to stay really open-minded about things, because I do think it's important to be a part of progress. But I think it's really still up for debate whether this is actual progress, or whether this is taking the word "music" out of the music industry. Also, a lot of people were suggesting to me that I try putting new music on Spotify with "Shake It Off," and so I was open-minded about it. I thought, "I will try this; I'll see how it feels." It didn't feel right to me. I felt like I was saying to my fans, "If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it's theirs now and they don't have to pay for it." I didn't like the perception that it was putting forth. And so I decided to change the way I was doing things.
Now, I know a lot of you probably don't give a fudge about Taylor Swift's music, but I want to open this up to a bigger problem. Why are musicians blaming their problems on free streaming services?
I actually did a presentation on something like this last Fall because I didn't believe that Spotify was at fault for any of the problems the music industry may be having. Here is a great opinion article that explains how I feel about this. You can also read the article that it was in response to from there.
And here's a great excerpt:
So should the recording industry be saved and do musicians need saving? I have no interest in saving the recording industry in its current form, since it was set up to exploit musicians. It pays low royalties to musicians for sales of their work in return for providing money so they can record their work. There are multiple examples of different models within this system – but that is the system as it stands. Along with other musicians, I have often said that we pay back the mortgage but never own the house under this system.Byrne rightly points out that musicians get low royalties from plays on streaming music services. This is because they sign binding contracts with labels. Whenever a label licenses their music catalogue to any entity – TV, film, iTunes, Spotify etc – the label keeps 50% and musicians get to split the rest. There are different arrangements: some labels pay the artist whatever the agreed recording royalty is, which is typically 15-25% depending on the deal. Have musicians ever stopped to think that when music fans don't stream their music in these services, they then get less royalties than Taylor Swift who is streamed a lot?It is not hyperbole to suggest that this generation's music fans want to rent their music, not own it. Spotify may not have created that shift but they certainly provided a solution to easy-access mobile music streaming. They simply saw a consumer demand, just as any company in any marketplace would. I am certain that Spotify would want every single music fan on its service to pay the monthly subscription, but is it Spotify's fault if we choose not to do that and listen to the ad-supported version instead? This generation's music fans are using streaming services to create their own programming. And how many musicians out there in the world use Spotify? I'd bet there are many.Do musicians feel queasy when they listen to FM radio? That is, an ad-supported service that is free to listen to and pays out royalties to music publishers based on radio play – ie, the more artists are played the more they get paid. One thing is certain: when artists remove their music from Spotify they are simply ensuring that they will receive zero royalties from that service. They will also ensure that they are not in a service that provides massive distribution of their work and is not a walled garden like FM radio is.As for the question about how musicians should be compensated, what exactly do Byrne and Yorke expect Spotify to do? The company has already paid out in excess of $500m in royalties, a sum that makes up 70% of the company's revenue. Should they be expected to pay even more than 70% in royalties?
So, how do you feel about this? Do you think it's fair for musicians to blame their problems on free streaming services? They have every right to pull their music from Spotify, but do you think they're making a mistake when they do? Do you think that it's just a problem with the music industry in general these days?
Any other thoughts on this? Discuss.