Taylor Swift Calls Spotify a “Start-Up With No Cash Flow That Reacts to Criticism Like a Corporate Machine”


…from the upcoming, September issue of Vanity Fair, which features Taylor Swift on the cover.

“After receiving criticism for a Wall Street Journal op-ed Swift wrote last summer, about Spotify’s free-streaming service, Swift says she worried “people would say, ‘Why won’t she shut up about this?’. . . My fears were that I would be looked at as someone who just whines and rants about this thing that no one else is really ranting about.

“Swift says she consulted only one person before releasing the letter on the Internet. “I read it to my mom,” she says. “She’s always going to be the one. I just said, ‘I’m really scared of this letter, but I had to write it. I might not post it, but I had to say it.’


“Apple surprised Swift by almost immediately changing its plan not to compensate artists during the trial period of its new streaming service. Says Swift,

“Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about,” she says. “And I found it really ironic that the multi-billion-dollar company reacted to criticism with humility, and the start-up with no cash flow reacted to criticism like a corporate machine.”

Top image by [email protected], licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.o).

23 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “the start-up with no cash flow reacted to criticism like a corporate machine”

    Haha, she’s great!

  2. Skot Horchata

    she wouldn’t have a career in the first place unless her parents dumped a load of cash into Big Machine (very early in her career). i suppose the Swift’s had plenty of “cash flow” to start-up her career. smoke and mirrors.

    • Biiiig

      Who cares how someone starts? She’s had successes that you could only dream about, and there’s no difference between her parents putting money in or being a major label investing in a baby band. Staying power. It means something.

  3. Anonymous

    Yes, Spotify is a thief, who doesn’t want to pay anything to the artists

    • Musicservices4less

      I don’t know why I am still being amazed at some of the comments regarding this post. Most seem to want to kill the messenger instead of focusing on the message. Perhaps it is due to the fact that many of the commentators are really not in the business of music but are consumers. Nothing wrong with that but this is probably the most important issue to those actively involved in the music business today and tomorrow.

      Let’s remind those who may have forgot exactly what the message/issue is.
      It is free vs ad sponsored royalty calculations in regards to how artists, writers, music publishers and record labels are paid. Consumers from the beginning of time regarding any form of the monetary system, always preferred and will always prefer, free or the perceived lowest cost to them. I think that part is obvious. So quite frankly and no offense to consumers, they don’t get a “vote” or just don’t really understand the issue.

      Back to the issue. The main issue is quite simple. Tech music distributors (Spotify, Apple Music and let’s not forget the biggest problem in this discussion, Google/Youtube, being allowed to pay its suppliers (content owners) a price for content inventory based on the total dollar amount of how much distributors bring in, is just plain wrong as compared to every other business that is conducted in the United States. To make it easier to understand, let’s change positions of the players. Let’s say Verizon is now Apple Music/GoogleYoutube and Apple phones are music content owners. Would Apple phones enter into an agreement with Verizon that let’s Verizon determine how much to pay Apple based on the dollar amount Verizon brings from Apple phones sold to consumers? Of course not – Apple phones wants a fixed price to be paid based on the number of phones sold. Period. Whether Verizon sells one phone or a billion, the price is let’s say $500 per phone.

      The United States law is that copyrighted material is property just like phones. Why should owners of the copyrighted material be forced to enter into a form agreement that says too bad, if you want your content on YouTube, Spotify, etc. that’s the deal, take it or leave it. The obvious answer to that is don’t make the deal. Right? ….. Wrong!

      Here come’s the 15 year old exception for YouTube, the biggest offender by far, called the “Safe Harbor Provision” of the Copyright Act better known as the “WAM” provision. . . WHACK A MOLE. Instead of Youtube having to make sure that its for profit website which everyone in the world now knows after 15+ years of actual use, is definitely not a passive website as the Safe Harbor provision was intended by Congress to protect, the content providers must do the policing.

      But here’s the catch. Youtube keeps allowing unauthorized content to go up on its website ie WAM in your face, copyright owners! To the tune of 30 million or much more takedown notices per year. Sound pretty stupid? Need to change the law? uh yeah!!!!!!!!!

      Let’s focus on the issue, please. Let’s find out where the pres candidates and each politician stands on this issue and VOTE.

      • Troglite

        I agree with what you wrote. I frequently agree with the comments you post on this site.

        Our misunderstanding is my fault. I shouldn’t have settled for snark when substance is needed.

        I am astonished that Miss Swift actually believes that Apple’s decision was the result of her 4 AM rant. I am equally astonished that the press and members of the DMN community have bought into this narrative so easily. The signs that Miss Swift’s grasp of these topics are almost as obvious as the signs that her convictions have nothing to do with how OTHER artists are treated. For example:
        * Her music has always remained available on YouTube, who as you correctly point out has one of the worst monetization strategies from an artist’s perspective.
        * Apple Music’s paid tier still pays much too little and exhibits the variable rate structure inherent in an “all you can eat for a flat monthly fee” subscription model. A couple of additional percentage points is not a meaningful difference.
        * She completely mis-characterizes the current status of the market. Spotify has enjoyed a dominant position that has begun to eat into Apple’s iTunes hegemony. The fact that Spotify feels like they can be more aggressive or that Apple would feel the need to be more flexible shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.

        THAT is the type of self-importance I was trying to call out into the open. In my opinion, Miss Swift hasn’t helped developing artists. If anything, she’s helped convince them that the pay out rates in Spotify’s paid tier is the best we should hope for. In the process, she’s allowed Apple to turn her into a spokesperson by feeding her already inflamed sense of self importance.

  4. Anonymous

    She’s kinda right, at least about Spotify.

    I have zero use for Apple and am a complete fanboy for Spotify but in terms of how Spotify reacts to criticism or questions from artists and indies is tremendously thin-skinned (at least) and a reminder to the bad old days when all of the technologist “disrupters” openly expressed contempt and a “we know better than these dinosaurs” mentality (at worst).

    If anyone from Spotify reads this, we know you’re working hard and are proud of what your platform is accomplishing but it’s probably not best to respond to every challenge by saying, “oh, he (or she) just doesn’t get it”.

    • FarePlay

      When Ek said in an interview that Sean Parker was the only senior member of Spotify from the music business, I knew what a shit house they were. You don’t come into an industry at that level with no experience and expect to know what you’re doing.

  5. some guy

    It takes a thin skinned control freak to know a company of thin skinned control freaks.

  6. superduper

    If you read between the lines, what Taylor Swift really is saying is that Spotify is a worse ‘corporation’ in terms of quality of business. She is not saying that Apple Music is better for artists, she is merely just saying that they are a better ‘business’ because they are not a ‘start-up’ with ‘no cash flow.’
    Obviously that doesn’t mean anything to artists because Apple is paying crap rates, and they never will improve because streaming is such a weak business model, either paid subscription or unpaid ad-based.
    To be completely honest I really liked Taylor Swift’s stance during the time in which she pulled her music from Spotify. After she put her new album back on Apple Music, she started to look like a high-level hypocrite because of her unwitting support of Apple’s still-crap royalty rates, without even a question raised as to what the real difference is between Apple’s crap royalty rates and Spotify’s crap royalty rates.
    And now? Now it’s just business, plain and simple.Her smearing of Spotify doesn’t matter at all, no matter whether or not she is wrong or right about Spotify, because now it’s clear she clearly no longer cares about royalty rate. I actually find it ironic that Swift finds Apple to be humile and community-driven because Apple Music has no humility in paying out shameful royalty rates to artists, and they do not care about creating a community. If they did, they would try to reach out to all artists, help them support themselves and grow their careers and pay them fair royalty rates, yet they do none of these things. In the end, the only artists that streaming services benefit are the the highest of the elite and all other artists (most artists) will suffer because of this.


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