Taylor Swift threw down the gauntlet early last week when she removed all of her music from the Spotify streaming service. For many, it was a definitive protest against the extremely low earnings afforded artists through the service. But not everyone is on Taylor's side.
During a panel discussion at the Web Summit conference in Dublin on Thursday, Jonathan Dickins disagreed with Taylor's viewpoint. "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 said.
That "one size fits all" comment was in response to the hypocrisy of singling out Spotify over other streaming sites. Many have noted that Taylor's music is still available on streaming sites like Rdio. And Dickins claimed YouTube is actually the largest streaming service on the web. "If I make a search now for Taylor Swift on YouTube, give me 30 seconds and I can have the whole Taylor Swift album there streamed. Some of it’s ad-supported, so there is revenue, and some of it’s not," he added.
Also, YouTube, he noted, is considered a "marketing tool." 10 million views is seen as a marketing success compared to 10 million streams on Spotify, which is seen as a loss of revenue.
However, Dickins isn't in full support of Spotify's practices. In 2011, Adele released her critically-acclaimed (and high-grossing) album, 21. Adele and her label held back on releasing the album to the free service because Spotify refused to temporarily lock the album under the service's premier tier subscription level ($9.99 a month).
"The premium tier to me are real active record buyers," Dickins said. "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."
It's surprising to see Dickins make such claims. Arguably, Taylor, Adele, and Beyonce are the only mainstream artists who can guarantee millions upon millions of records sold. Taylor's latest record broke first week sales records for the first time since 2002. Adele's 21 went on to sell more than 30 million records worldwide.
Maybe Dickins is simply able to see the forest for the trees. Just like the rise of mp3s before it, streaming services are the new method for people (especially young people, the kind that make up the primary bulk of Taylor's fans) to access music.
What do you think? Is Taylor in the right with her decision to withhold her music from Spotify? Is streaming music the future?