Editor's Note: The author of this piece believes Taylor Swift is a gift from the gods, bestowed upon us to shed light on our otherwise dark and depressing world. Also, he knows all her lyrics and hopes to one day marry the talented singer-songwriter in a sunset wedding on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
The international superstar, pop culture icon and all-aroundgoddess, Taylor Swift, made headlines in November 2014 when she decided to abruptlypull all of her albums from the library of music streaming service Spotify,leaving listeners around the world suffering from the kind of heartache only one of her breakup songs can cure.
"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,"Swift said. "And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free."
"Taylor Swiftis absolutely right." Obviously. "Music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it," responded Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek."We've already paid more than $2 billion in royalties to the music industry and if that money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way, that's a big problem."
The bleak reality ismajor record labels are holding onto as much as 73 percent of Spotify's payouts.Taylor Swift is amazing, and beautiful and perfect and she's never done anything wrong in her whole entire life but...maybe she's focusing her energy on the wrong target. Spotify isn't intentionally ripping off artists. Record labels are.
Standard terms and conditions.Tumblr
'SIGNED TO ONE N---- THAT SIGNED TO ANOTHER N---- THAT'S SIGNED TO THREE 'N-----'
-Pusha T 'Exodus 21'
Major labels have been taking advantage of musicians long before Spotify. According toR.A. The Rugged Man,"Every record label sucks d--k...They all down to jerk us, trying to keep us poor on purpose." In 2008, Jared Leto's band, 30 Seconds To Mars, sold over two million records and somehow ended up $1.4 million in debt to their label, even though EMI hadn't paid them a cent in royalties. Record labels force musicians to pay for their own studio time, video shoots and promotion, which is why some artists barely make any money off their music. But the rise of the Internet changed the industry forever, and music executives had to devise new methods of exploiting artists.
"Spotify is giving up 70 percent of all their revenues to rights owners,"said Bono, U2's all-knowing lead singer."It's just that people don't know where the money is because the record labels haven't been transparent."
Lil Wayne recently filed a $51 million lawsuit against his label, claimingCash Money Records had "failed to properly account and pay royalties and profits."He's oneof the most successful hip hop artists of all time, and even his contract is"all f---ed up,"as rival Pusha T so crudely described.
Ten years ago, if you wanted to be a professional musician, the major label route was pretty much your only option. That's no longer the case. More artists are choosing to remain independent because, like J.Cole put it,"labels are archaic, formulaic with their outcomes."Oh, and they also hold on to almost all of a musician's royalties,forbudgetingreasons."The system's set up so almost nobody gets paid," Courtney Love explained."There are hundreds of stories about artists in their 60s and 70s who are broke because they never made a dime from their hit records."
Someone like Taylor Swift doesn't have to worry about getting screwed over by her label; she's a money-making machine with seven Grammy Awards to her name and over 40 million albums sold worldwide.Big Machineshould thank their lucky stars they even have her in their roster. But Swift's father was also one of the record label's early investors, and he's definitely always looked out for the best interests of his little girl. That doesn't discredit her success, but Taylor should acknowledge she's in a pretty unique position as an artist.
'PEOPLE DON'T BUY S--T NO MORE, THEY JUST DUB IT'
-Eminem 'I'm Shady'
Since theiTunes Store launched on April 28, 2003,music sales have progressively plummeted.That's why,in the words of SIim Shady, "I'm still broke and had the number one club hit." But if it wasn't for Apple, people wouldn't even be paying for music. Before iTunes, it was easier to pirate a song than to purchase it legitimately. Today, the opposite is true.
Streaming services are a direct response to illegal music downloading. "We started Spotify because we love music and piracy was killing it," said Ek. "We're working day and night to recover money for artists and the music business that piracy was stealing away."
Despite vocally criticizing streaming in the past, all of Taylor Swift's magnificently spectacular albums are available on Apple Music, Spotify's latest competitor. In a way, Apple is taking astance against free music streamingby only offering users premium subscriptions for $9.99 per month. But the company'sroyalty system is not that different from Spotify's. In fact, they're pretty much identical. On average, artists earn the same per stream on Apple Music as they do on Spotify, with record labels consistently receiving the biggest cut of the profits.
No one should ever question Taylor Swift's decisions, but it doesn't make sense for her to support Apple Music while simultaneously disparaging Spotify. They are the same product with a different label. Taylor shouldn't be calling out a streaming service; she should be putting music executives on blast. While record labels are greedily snatching royalties out of the hands of hard-working musicians,Spotify ishemorrhaging money to offer consumers an awesome product.
'IT FEELS GOOD PUTTING MONEY IN YOUR MAILBOX'
-Tupac Shakur 'Dear Mama'
Thered-lipped and rosy-cheekedcelestial being, who can "make the bad guys good for a weekend,"believes Spotify harms artists by devaluing their work. "Music is art, and art is important and rare," Taylor wrotein aWall Street Journalop-ed. "Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for."
As elegant as Ms. Swift is,the Notorious B.I.G. said it best:"I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter."
In 2014, Spotify reported net losses of $197 million, up from$68 million the year before.But that's okay, you have to spend money to make money, right?Like Drizzy Drake once said, "Shout out to all my n----- living tax free.Nowadays, its six figures when they tax me.Oh well, guess you lose some and win some.Long as the outcome is income." Wise words from Degrassi's most financially lucrative alumnus, but the issue is Spotify's outcome isn't actually income. The company is currently paying rights holders as much as it feasibly can, but it's kind of hard to turn a profit when you only charge $10 for virtually every song in the universe.
"Spotify is not the enemy; piracy is the enemy," said legendary producer Quincy Jones. "Piracy doesn't pay artists a penny," added Daniel Ek. "We're trying to build a new music economy that works for artists in a way the music industry never has before." Over the years, Spotify has contributed billions of dollars to the music industry, but the starving artists haven't received their fair share of the cut.
Turn the volume up.Tumblr
'MUSIC IS A DRUG, PRESS PLAY YOU AIN'T GOTTA SNIFF IT'
-50 Cent 'Never Enough'
Taylor Swift is flawless, she only writes incredible songs and her attempt to stand up for the creative community is admirable, but she's battling the wrong enemy. Instead of talking about how streaming is hurting the music industry, she should focus her energy on calling out major record labels. Big Machine might be treating her fairly, but countless artists on other labels are being cheated out of their royalties.
"Every streaming service does pay," saidowner and founder of Size Records, Steve Angello. The former frontman of Swedish House Mafia suggested artists who complain about royalties should "go back and talk to their record labels."
Or better yet, follow the infalliblePrince's advice and avoid major labels altogether. "Record contracts are just like "” I'm gonna say the word "“ slavery.I would tell any young artist... don't sign."
Musicians like Macklemore have proved that it's possible to make a name for yourself without signing your soul away to a major label. Sure, his music is corny, but he has independently released two albums, and his single "Thrift Shop"reached number one on the U.S. BillboardHot 100 chart. That's especially impressive considering without a major record label, it's practically impossible to get your music played on the radio.
Fans shouldn't feel bad for using Spotify, because streaming services will not singlehandedly decimate the world's music industry.They're great, especially if you love music. Butmajor labels need to stop stealing royalties from hard-working musicians, and recording contracts have to be transparent and fair for all parties involved. It's not Spotify's fault that artists aren't getting paid enough. By all means, keep on streaming. Listen to as many songs as you possibly can. But if you really want to support your favorite musicians, go see them in concert, buy yourself a t-shirt and take home one of their CDs. Yes, they do still make those.