To Stream or Not to Stream?

Streaming services have become an increasingly popular way to listen to music. The artists who refuse to put their music on Spotify, however, aren’t as popular.

In October of 2014, amongst Taylor Swift’s much anticipated release of 1989, she announced she would not be releasing her album on Spotify. Many Swifties were in an uproar over the news (I must admit I was a little upset too. How can I make the ultimate party playlist without songs like ‘Shake It Off’?).

Swift’s reasoning behind not releasing her music to streaming services is a reason that is becoming a lot more popular. The reason? Royalties, baby. According to Digital Music News, artists that received 10,000 streams from Spotify Premium users in January 2014 only received $90. No, I didn’t leave off any zeroes in that number. Sure, all those streams start to add up considering the amount of people who use Spotify Premium (6 million, says this 2014 article), but it’s still not as much as an artist would make if they made their fans go out and buy the album, which is exactly what Swift did (Note: She sold 1.3 million copies in the first week of 1989 coming out, making her the first artist to sell a million albums in 2014).

Her decision received a lot of mixed reactions. Some applauded her for taking control of her career, but some criticized her and called her money hungry. Here’s her take on the matter:

“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,” she told Yahoo. “And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

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She’s not alone. Other artists like Thom Yorke have also pulled their music from Spotify. Why shouldn’t they? When a person stream millions of albums for $10 a month, why would they spend money on a physical copy of an album? Spotify stands by their model, stating they have paid millions to artists.

“We’ve already paid $500 million to rightsholders so far and by the end of 2013 this number will reach $1 billion,” Spotify said. “Much of this money is being invested in nurturing new talent and producing great new music.”

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Maybe Spotify isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s actually helping drive down piracy in Norway. Offering millions of albums at the click of a button virtually eliminates the need for people to illegally download music. Digital Music News states that between 2008 and 2013, illegally downloaded songs dropped from 1.2 billion to 210 million in Norway. Piraters are now becoming paying customers of streaming services.

I applaud Taylor Swift in sticker to her guns. She certainly has a right to make as much money as she can off her music. The question of to stream or not to stream is one that’s being asked a lot more from artists. Perhaps they’ll stop asking this if Spotify decides to raise their royalties for artists.

Until then, you can catch me rocking out to my physical copy of 1989.

To Stream or Not to Stream?

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