Spotify has long been vilified by the David Lowerys and Taylor Swifts of the industry as the downfall of digital music. Despite the fact that digital sales had been falling just as rapidly in Canada long before Spotify hit the country. But that fact disrupts the narrative: Streaming kills sales. Actually, the facts are, streaming kills piracy. Yet still, the revenue from streaming has not kept up with the decline in sales revenue.
So artists are scrambling for ways to make more money from their music any way possible.
But what is it saying when Taylor Swift pulls her catalog from Spotify because there’s a free tier (that doesn’t pay enough), but she keeps it up on YouTube? A service that pays a fraction of what Spotify does and is COMPLETELY free?
It’s contradictory. And hypocritical.
Now, I commend Ms. Swift for her Tumblr post which got the largest company in the world to change course. But, what is it saying that Apple first made the decision not to pay artists for use of their work to help Apple’s own promotional campaign, and then stood by that decision while Independent artists, labels and managers loudly spoke up against it? What is it saying that the only thing that convinced Apple to do what is right by the artists and songwriters that gives Apple the content they need to sell their products, was the threat of the largest artist in the world withholding her music?
This is not a mere oversight. Apple, which has nearly $200 BILLION cash on hand, in their pocket, thought they would exploit artists, who struggle as it is, to acquire paying customers for Apple’s service, with a “hey, help a brother out. We’ve scratched your back, now scratch ours.” Except Apple hasn’t ever scratched anyone’s back. They’ve provided a great service, and taken a hefty commission. If Apple gave every artist $50,000 to record an album, then sure, I’d say, let’s allow Apple to exploit our music for free for 3 months to help them, like they helped us. But Apple hasn’t paid us anything other than 70% of our music sales from iTunes.
Sure, Eddy Cue, the guy leading the Apple Music front, tried to explain this away as why they would pay 71.5% of their streaming revenue out to rights holders (above the 70% they pay out for iTunes – and just higher than what Spotify pays at 70%, and MUCH higher than what YouTube pays at 55%). But this explanation from Cue feels more like an excuse than a thought through strategy. Even if we got 1.5% more, it would take years to offset the money lost in the 3 month promotional period. Labels can afford that. Artists, not so much.
And why the secrecy? Have you learned nothing from the disastrous launch of Spotify in the US just a few years back? Spotify was lambasted by artists everywhere because Spotify kept its accounting and payments so secretive. Only when Spotify launched spotifyartists.com did it finally give some artists some peace of mind. If you want to truly seem like the good guys BE TRANSPARENT with your payment structure. Right from the start.