In a week where Taylor Swift’s record company yanked all her albums off Spotify, and her new album 1989 shifted 1.287million copies in the first week of release (the biggest first week sales of any album in 12 years) a couple of people have come out in defence of Spotify. This week saw both Adele’s manager Jonathan Dickins, and Bono come out in support of streaming and of Spotify in particular.
Jonathan Dickins talking at an industry panel said: “Personally, I think streaming’s the future, whether people like it or not, but I don’t believe one size necessarily fits all with streaming,” He went on to point out the disparity between the industry’s attitude to YouTube and Spotify, “On the one hand, labels are trumpeting YouTube as a marketing tool: 10 million views on YouTube and it’s a marketing stroke of genius. But on the other hand they’re looking at 10 million streams on Spotify and saying that’s x amount of lost sales.”
Bono too has spoken out, and made a point I have made a number of times when artists have started moaning: “When people pick on Spotify: Spotify are giving up 70% of all their revenues to rights owners. It’s just that people don’t know where the money is because the record labels haven’t been transparent,” The money is there, if the artist is not getting it, the culprit is the same one it has always been the record company and the terms of the contract they signed.
Bono is also right when he rejects the ‘no one will go into the business if they can’t make money’ argument often put forward by established moaners with fake worries about up and coming talent. “I would be as excited as I was when we formed U2 when we were 17 / 18 years old. Though it is clear that there are some traumas as we move from physical to digital and 20th century to 21st century, and the people paying the highest price for those traumas are songwriters rather than performers, I still think forming a band is so exciting.” Who said tax dodging pop stars can’t make sense some of the time.
Dickins also puts forward an argument that could help bridge the gap between some artists – like Swift and Adele- and Spotify: allowing some albums to be initially to be restricted to its paying customers only. “The premium tier to me are real active record buyers, paying their $9.99 or €9.99 or £9.99 a month. My feeling would be to get around the situation with someone like Taylor Swift – but Spotify won’t do it – is a window between making something available on the premium service, earlier than it’s made available on the free service.”
Spotify isn’t interested (and unless other streaming services follow suite you could perhaps understand why) but I think it is a sound idea. Whether for a couple of weeks or a month, it would allow an artist to maximise the initial ‘sales’ of a record and still give ‘fans’ access if they valued music enough to be paying a sub. It might even encourage a few to subscribe, which would benefit everyone in the food chain.