Opinion

Spotify has a “blank space” and it’s caused by Taylor Swift



To Spotify or not to Spotify? That is the question that music artists are facing today. Taylor Swift responded to this question in a big way on Nov. 3 by removing her entire music catalog from Spotify.

Though she has gained significant attention from her choice, she is not the first artist to do so. Last summer, Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album, and also withheld it from Spotify. Several other lesser-known artists have done the same.

There’s certainly debate about whether releasing music on Spotify is good for an artist or not. But we, as listeners, should have a question to ask ourselves as well: Should we support streaming initiatives like Spotify?

Spotify recently launched a page titled “Spotify Explained,” which details how the company makes and distributes their revenue. Along with several pages spent glorifying their accomplishments and “contributions to the music industry,” there is a small but vague section describing “artist royalties.” The “royalties,” which is money that the artists get paid, average to about $.006 to $.0084 per stream after getting through all of Spotify’s middlemen.

And, if that number doesn’t seem minuscule enough to you, that price is what is given to the labels. The owner of the label then divides that out according to contracts, so the artists themselves don’t even receive the full royalty amount. Long story short, artists make almost nothing from partnering with Spotify.

However, money isn’t all that matters in the music industry. Kyler Mello, a member of the local band Mozzo Kush, said that his band uses Spotify as a hub for their music. Though he doesn’t recall exactly how much his band has been paid through Spotify, it didn’t seem to be of importance.

“The local indie guys are more concerned with getting their stuff out there. I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of pay for promotion,” Mello said. Though Spotify doesn’t pay its artists particularly well, it certainly provides an established site for fans to be able to access up-and-coming music.

Spotify is a good choice for bands who are simply looking to get themselves out there and gain more attention, but it’s not so good for artists who are already past the point of recognition.

But, one could also argue that by the time artists have made it big, they’re already making enough money that they don’t need to worry about losing a small percent of album sales. I don’t think anyone’s worried about artists like Taylor Swift or Beyoncé making enough money.

Sophomore Aidan Grealish doesn’t think Spotify is such a bad thing.

“I listen to Spotify a lot. But I do buy physical CDs, as well, of artists that I may have discovered on Spotify,” he said. This might indicate that Spotify eventually leads many people to actually purchase the music rather than pirating it.

Maybe Spotify is simply moving with the times. With the digital direction music is going today, it’s nearly impossible to censor the exchange of music online. Spotify’s view is that they can prevent stealing of music altogether and give artists at least some of the revenue they deserve.

Perhaps song and album sales just aren’t worth what they used to be worth and that’s the way we’re headed, anyways. In any case, artists have historically made a very small cut of the money from album sales in comparison to producers and other middlemen. Today, most of the income artists like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift earn comes from world tours, product endorsements and television appearances.

Knowing this, it’s difficult to feel like you’re directly supporting an artist by buying their songs or albums anymore. The music industry is changing and even though we may not continue to pay the same for a song or album as we used to, we have to adapt and do the best we can.

Follow Lindsay McWilliams on Twitter @lindsaymacwill


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Lindsay McWilliams

Lindsay McWilliams