Taylor Swift’s new contract with Universal Music contained a provision that was a first for a label signed artist. She demanded that all other artists on the Universal Music label receive royalties from Spotify plays, no matter who was played.
This means that every artist on her label will profit from plays on Spotify, from huge artists like herself, one of the biggest music artists in the world, to the lesser known metal, punk, folk, classical and other artists signed to the label.
It’s an interesting deal, not only from a financial standpoint, which ensures that musicians can earn more of a living from their life’s work, but from an ethical standpoint, where the most successful musicians can help their up-and-coming compatriots become more successful.
Not too long ago, Swift had pulled all of her music off Spotify. In 2014, she refused to post her album 1989 there in protest of the small amount of royalties paid to artists on the platform and Spotify’s tendency to ignore copyright requirements.
Swift has been a longtime advocate that musicians should be paid for their art and giving away music for free is not a viable way for a musician to make art.
Universal has a 3.5 per cent stake in Spotify and the other two major labels also have an ownership stake in the streaming service.
Also, artists will share their Spotify revenue “non-recoupable,” which means that they do not have to use the revenue to repay any advances or loans artists are given to produce their records.
Advocates for independent musicians have long been critical of major labels for their inaction on protecting the rights of lesser known musicians. Streaming services seem to benefit the biggest artists the most, and almost nothing was passed on to smaller artists who also used streaming services.
On Spotify, artists are paid less than a cent per play. With an artist like Taylor Swift, this adds up quickly, but smaller acts might barely notice the revenue.
Swift also doesn’t exactly need the income from Spotify, with her record contracts, plays from conventional radio and tours giving her tens of millions of dollars a year.
Swift’s new contract ensures artists that come after her will be able to feed themselves and actually have a chance of making a name for themselves in the music industry.
With any luck, Swift’s groundbreaking move will spur other big names to do the same, ensuring that future musicians and music fans will have new and exciting music to listen to.
Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to thex.ca.