Spotify wants to clear its name after Taylor Swift's very public breakup with the streaming service last week. Coming to the defense of the company in a blog post, an exasperated-sounding Daniel Ek defended Spotify as a misunderstood but lucrative resource for artists and record labels in the fight against piracy. According to Ek, the firm's CEO, Spotify has paid artists and their representatives over $2 billion since he founded the company in 2008, a billion of which came in just the last year.
"When I hear stories about artists and songwriters who say they've seen little or no money from streaming and are naturally angry and frustrated, I'm really frustrated too," Ek said, suggesting that a lack of transparency and/or a breakdown in the distribution of money from rights holders to artists has contributed to misperceptions.
Answering calls to make a strong case for why music's biggest stars should side with the service, Ek said a top artist like Swift would stand to make in the neighborhood of $6 million from Spotify in 2014, had she not withdrawn her catalog. Without Spotify, which has 12.5 million paying subscribers and 50 million active users, most of that revenue would be lost to piracy, he argued.
Ek spent the bulk of his post attempting to disprove what he said were three myths about Spotify, namely that being on the free version of the service is tantamount to giving away your music ("free music is supported by ads, and we pay for every play"); that no one could earn a living from Spotify royalties (newcomer Hozier's hit song "Take Me to Church" has reportedly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on the service this year); and that Spotify cannibalizes album sales (album sales are falling rapidly even in markets where Spotify doesn't exist, Ek said).
None of this is likely to win anyone over in Swift's camp (busy, no doubt, counting their money after selling an additional 400,000 copies of 1989 last week), but it signals that Spotify is willing to get aggressive in the fight to build a new music economy around streaming. It will have to be. This week, country star Jason Aldean followed in Swift's footsteps by removing his hit new album Old Boots, New Dirt from the service. If more high-profile artists pack their bags, users may not be far behind.