The backlash against free began last year, when arguably the biggest recording artist on the planet, Taylor Swift, pulled all of her music from Spotify. In the past couple of weeks, Swift’s stance has gained backing from the world’s two biggest record companies, Universal and Sony, who together account for more than half of the recorded music market, and seem determined to clamp down on free listening. Universal is using licensing negotiations (paywall) with Spotify to “push for changes to the company’s free service,” the Financial Times reported last week.
Some seasoned observers at SXSW said that this could be a colossal mistake. “Treating consumers like children and telling them that everything they’ve enjoyed about these streaming services is going to be taken away because the biggest record companies don’t like it, that’s another Napster moment,” Charles Caldas, the CEO of Merlin Network, the global licensing agency for independent music labels, tells Quartz.
“The major labels screwed Napster and screwed the market by killing what was potentially the biggest opportunity the industry could imagine in getting into the digital space early. If they follow through with this, they are going to do it again”.