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Taylor Swift’s label boss suggests lower Spotify payouts than Ek claims

By | Published on Thursday 13 November 2014


The boss of Taylor Swift’s US label Big Machine, Scott Borchetta, has responded to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s recent blog post on the removal of her music from the streaming service. He seemingly disputes how much the musician stood to earn from Spotify, saying that to date Vevo has been more lucrative for her.

As previously reported, Ek wrote this week: “At our current size, payouts for a top artist like Taylor Swift (before she pulled her catalogue) are on track to exceed $6 million a year, and that’s only growing – we expect that number to double again in a year”.

However, Borchetta tells Time that in the last twelve months, Big Machine has actually received $496,044 from the service in relation to streams of Swift’s music. A much smaller sum. Though possibly not quite the “mystery” that Time claims it is in its headline. For one thing, Borchetta is talking about the recording royalties on Swift’s music in the US alone in the last year. Ek is talking about recording and publishing payments worldwide during a period (partly in the future) of rapid growth for his service, and in the months after she released a very successful album.

Or, in the words of Spotify comms chief Jonathan Prince, who confirmed to Time that total payouts for Swift worldwide in the last twelve months have been $2 million: “The more we grow, the more we pay artists, and we’re growing like crazy. Our users, both free and paid, have grown by more than 50% in the last year, which means that the run rate for artists of every level of popularity keeps climbing. And Taylor just put out a great record, so her popularity has grown too. We paid Taylor’s label and publisher roughly half a million dollars in the month before she took her catalogue down – without even having ‘1989’ on our service – and that was only going to go up”.

Swift and Borchetta’s real problem with Spotify, of course, is that it refuses to allow them to make music available only for paying subscribers, cutting off the ad-supported tier that pays out lower royalties. Many had wondered if Spotify might cave to this pressure, but in his article this week Ek remained firm that the ‘free’ option was integral to driving users to upgrade to the premium level. “No free, no paid, no $2 billion”, he said in relation to the amount of money the streaming service has paid out to the music industry to date.