Since pulling her music from Spotify, Taylor Swift has voiced her doubts about the value of the streaming service for artists, calling it "a grand experiment".
But that wasn’t the last of it – Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has written a lengthy piece in defence of Spotify’s value, and has lashed out at Taylor Swift for her decision to jump ship.
"At our current size, payouts for a top artist like Taylor Swift (before she pulled her catalog) are on track to exceed $6 million a year, and that’s only growing – we expect that number to double again in a year," wrote Ek. "Any way you cut it, one thing is clear – we’re paying an enormous amount of money to labels and publishers for distribution to artists and songwriters, and significantly more than any other streaming service."
Ek said that Spotify has paid out over $2 billion to labels since it began, a billion of which was made between 2008 and last year. Basically, the number is accelerating. But Ek added, "If that money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way" then there’s a "big problem".
Ek also said that, while Swift had sold more than 1.2 million copies of her 1989 album in the US in its first week, she’s the only artist who’s sold over a million copies in an album’s first week since 2002: "In the old says, multiple artists sold multiple millions every year."
"That just doesn’t happen any more; people’s listening habits have changed – and they’re not going to change back. You can’t look at Spotify in isolation – even though Taylor can pull her music off Spotify (where we license and pay for every song we’ve ever played), her songs are all over services and sites like YouTube and Soundcloud, where people can listen all they want for free. To say nothing of the fans who will just turn back to pirate services like Grooveshark. And sure enough, if you looked at the top spot on The Pirate Bay last week, there was 1989…"
It’s not us, it’s you
Spotify’s chief exec then went on to address the ongoing debate over whether streaming is killing downloads. His opinion is, quite simply, that it’s not.
"This is classic correlation without causation – people see that downloads are down and streaming is up, so they assume the latter is causing the former. Except the whole correlation falls apart when you realize a simple fact: downloads are dropping just as quickly in markets where Spotify doesn’t exist.
"Canada is a great example, because it has a mature music market very similar to the US. Spotify launched in Canada a few weeks ago. In the first half of 2014, downloads declined just as dramatically in Canada – without Spotify – as they did everywhere else. If Spotify is cannibalising downloads, who’s cannibalising Canada?"
We imagine Taylor will be singing about this breakup some day.