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Spotify founder says streaming service is Taylor Swift’s ally, not enemy

The fight between Taylor Swift and the streaming service Spotify continues. Spotify founder Daniel Ek said Swift was on track to make $6 million this year from Spotify before she and her label, Big Machine Records, pulled her music.
The fight between Taylor Swift and the streaming service Spotify continues. Spotify founder Daniel Ek said Swift was on track to make $6 million this year from Spotify before she and her label, Big Machine Records, pulled her music. Invision/The Associated Press

Spotify fired back on Tuesday at Taylor Swift and others who bemoan the streaming service’s pay structure.

“Spotify has paid more than $2 billion to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists,” said Spotify founder Daniel Ek in a post on the the service’s website. “And that’s $2 billion worth of listening that would have happened with zero or little compensation to artists and songwriters through piracy or practically equivalent services if there was no Spotify.”

On Friday, U2 frontman Bono defended Spotify.

“The real enemy is not between digital downloads or streaming, the real enemy, the real fight is between opacity and transparency,” he said at the Web Summit conference in Dublin. “The music business has historically involved itself in quite considerable deceit.

“But if we change that bit, and people can actually see how many times they’re being played, where they’re being played, get access to information on the people who are listening to them, get paid direct debit … I think those payments will add up to something, as the world gets more transparent.”

Over the weekend, country artist Jason Aldean also pulled his new album, “Old Boots, New Dirt,” from the streaming service.

Aloe Blacc defended Swift last week, saying “in return for co-writing a major hit song, I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.”

But those numbers were refuted by other musicians, including Ben Berry, who defended Spotify as a model that is working for his band, Moke Hill.

“Why is Spotify in the crosshairs because the people they pay aren’t paying the artists/writers?” Berry said. “Did writers march on Best Buy headquarters when they felt they weren’t getting a big enough piece of CD sales? Aloe Blacc is pointing the finger at streaming services for what he feels is a raw deal, when the reality is that Spotify simply adheres to the model that has been in place for years and therefore pays roughly the same percentage of revenue to writers as CDs or iTunes.”

Ek’s most persuasive argument for Spotify’s pay structure detailed the difference between a play on Spotify and a play on the radio.

“If a song has been listened to 500,000 times on Spotify, that’s the same as it having been played one time on a U.S. radio station with a moderate-sized audience of 500,000 people,” Ek said.

“ But the equivalent of that one play and its 500,000 listens on Spotify would pay out between $3,000 and $4,000.”

Ek went on to write that before she and/or her record company, Big Machine, pulled her music from Spotify, Swift was on track to make $6 million a year.

“And that’s only growing,” Ek said. “We expect that number to double again in a year.”

The New York Times wrote on Tuesday: “Although Big Machine has not made ‘1989’ available on streaming services, it has kept Swift’s back catalog on other services like Beats Music and Rhapsody that do not have free versions, and Rdio, whose free version is based on custom radio stations that do not allow full on-demand listening.”

So, whose side are you on?

To reach David Frese, The Star’s entertainment editor, call 816-234-4463 or send email to dfrese@kcstar.com.

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