The Swedish startup Spotify, which has taken the music world by storm since its inception in 2008, is doing its best to navigate the upheaval of Taylor Swift’s recent departure. The music streaming service has long been speculated to be abusive of artists' music royalties; this was highlighted by quite possibly the biggest name in pop music opting to remove her smash album “1989” from the service.
This is an enormous hit to the company as the majority of their profit comes from subscriptions, a reflection of the music people are paying to be able to listen to. The site works under what is known as a “freemium” revenue model, which means that users can access the site free of charge, but to get all the bells and whistles they have to pay for the additional features.
Swift is not the first artist to feel cheated by the site; a string of other big name artists have cried foul on the principle that lesser known musicians are being robbed. Swedish musician Magnus Uggla was one of the early critics. In 2009 he pulled his work after realizing the money he was earning was essentially null. A report in the same year by a Norwegian newspaper cited that record label Racing Junior had profited only $3 after their artists had received over 50,000 plays. A mathematical configuration was done and it was determined that an artist would need 4 million streams per month to net a lick above $1,000.
With statistics like this floating around, it is no surprise that musicians are not taking a liking to standing idly by while a streaming website reaps millions off their backs and only gives pennies in return.
Other artists that may be more familiar to American listeners include Biffy Clyro, The Black Keys, David Byrne and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. Yorke, being a name most familiar to the majority of music fans, decided to remove the music from his side band, Atoms for Peace, and his solo music from Spotify. The latest big name prior to Swift announcing her departure was former Talking Heads member David Byrne who claimed that artists could never make a living while companies like Spotify exist.
An artist as mainstream and exceedingly popular as Taylor Swift has not made their displeasure known until now. Her fifth studio album is in the midst of record-breaking sales and is packed with chart-topping singles including “Shake it Off” and “Blank Space.”
It is entirely possible that other big name artists may follow in suit knowing that a member of the current pop country royalty has sought out greener pastures. For now, Spotify will have to endure the loss of a heavyweight success.