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The Spotify Narrative and Taylor Swift

Technology article by Jon Schear on November 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Since Spotify was established in October of 2008, it has become somewhat of a herald of innovative technology for consumers. On the other hand, some people have come to consider it a bane for music industry. Unsurprisingly, some of these people are musicians. Three in particular have been very vocal in their attempts to push the anti-Spotify (and in some cases the anti-music streaming) narrative. The first one I'll examine is David Lowery, who you'll recognize as the frontman for the band Cracker. Besides being one of the loudest voices in opposition to streaming music, he's proven himself to be a peach when dealing with people who rebut his claims. The following screenshot shows him having a meltdown at Mike Masnick, owner of

[caption id="attachment_52880" align="alignnone" width="337"]( Click here for the full tantrum. IF you don't see it you need to click on the "This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to hide it.") ( Click here for the full tantrum. If you don't see it, you need to click on the "This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to hide it.")[/caption]

David made waves back in 2012 when he wrote a sanctimonious letter to Emily White at NPR after she blogged about her past experience and music library. To Lowery's credit, White's collection was only somewhat legal—she mentions Kazaa, anyone remember that awful program?—though that doesn't explain Lowery's eager attempt at straw manning the whole affair into a finger-wagging event that decries the younger generation and whines about ads on file sharing sites. Of course, he also carries on about Spotify. Using woefully faulty logic, he attempts to paint the music service as a detriment to artists claiming Spotify gets "away with paying so little to artists ..." If Lowery had bothered to actually research things, he would have found that Spotify pays out 70% of their revenue to record labels. They were also not profitable as a business in 2012 and continue to not be profitable even into 2015. This means that after that 70% cut, the company can barely deal with their overhead costs. The more problematic issue is the fact that the 70% cut that funnels through the record labels is dwindled down to the point that artists end up barely making a pay out.

So at this point, it makes more sense to blame the record labels for how they deal with the money, not the companies providing the revenue streams, but of course inconvenient facts would only hinder David Lowery's soapbox speech.

[caption id="attachment_60967" align="alignright" width="193"]Thom Yorke, depicted squeezing out his own fart. Thom Yorke, depicted squeezing out his own fart.[/caption]

Thom Yorke, frontman of Radiohead, has also voiced his disagreements with Spotify's system calling it the "the last desperate fart of a dying corpse," "corpse" in this situation referring to the music industry. However, despite first impressions being that he dislikes Spotify for the same reason as other artists, it's clear that his beef is more with the record labels and their use of Spotify.

In October of 2013, Yorke shared his sentiment about the Swedish streaming service in an interview done by the Guardian. After calling Spotify the "the last desperate fart of a dying corpse," Yorke goes on to explain a bit about the reasoning behind his comments, and for the most part his philosophy seems sound. For one, he seems to be a huge fan of cutting out the labels as middlemen and interacting directly with the fans. Labels acting as "gatekeepers" has been a growing issue since the major record labels merged years ago.

This has led to Yorke's ire towards Spotify, which he believes is being used as a tool to keep the musician from having that connection to their fans, and to some extent it's not all that unfounded considering that back in 2009 it was revealed that the major record labels collectively owned 18% of Spotify's stock. Unfortunately, separating Spotify's innovative technological features from the fact that its so closely tied to the record labels creates a sort of discomfort in some people, and it seems as if Yorke has had this issue in his battle to repair the gap between musician and fan.

taylor swift spotify streaming musicThe next artist in the anti-Spotify line-up is Taylor Swift. Disclaimer: I dislike Taylor Swift not for her catchy music which I listen to in a drunken stupor at times, but more for her inability to thoroughly research things she makes claims about. Oh, Taylor ... you make this so easy. At this point, everyone should be familiar with Tay Tay's comment about Spotify last year, and how she pulled her music catalog from the streaming service, claiming that streaming, among other things, has "shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically." Taylor's mentality towards Spotify is wrong on so many levels.

For one it shows a complete lack of understand in how the free market works; let's take a look at this gem of a quotation: "In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently." This was taken from her op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. The spirit of this comment seems to imply not only a sense of entitlement towards being paid for your "art," but also that the free market should dictate that art as something valuable and therefore worth purchasing. On top of that she recites the common Spotify mantra of artists being undervalued. Of course, if Spotify did pay out more than the 70% of their revenues to  the record labels, they end up bankrupt. But of course Tay-Tay needs not acknowledge this reality.

The one common thread between all three of these people seems to do with ignorance. It's a common problem we see today with a lot of people who make bold claims on the Internet ... they never back their arguments up with real data.

What's the opinion of like-minded bitter folks like myself (you normies can comment too)? Do you see Spotify as the bringer of destruction to all music or the innovative reaction to the Internet mingling with the free market?

About the Author

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Jon Schear

Staff Writer

Graphic and web designer by day, amateur digital artist/illustrator and writer for Techraptor by night. When I’m not doing any of those things, you can find me getting extremely angry in WoW as I watch my Moonkin get killed multiple times in PVP or drinking scotch.