After singer Taylor Swift's high-profile dumping of Spotify, the music streaming service's chief has leapt to his company's defense, telling the singer that rather than exploiting artists, it supports them.
In an Spotify's chief executive Daniel Ek wrote what amounted to an essay on Spotify's blog, saying that the business had paid out $2 billion to the music industry since it was launched in Sweden in 2008.
"We're working day and night to recover money for artists and the music business that piracy was stealing away," he said in a lengthy missive posted Tuesday. "Piracy doesn't pay artists a penny – nothing, zilch, zero. Spotify has paid more than two billion dollars to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists."
"When I hear stories about artists and songwriters who say they've seen little or no money from streaming and are naturally angry and frustrated, I'm really frustrated too," Ek added.
His comments follow Taylor Swift's decision to pull her entire album catalog from the music streaming service in early November, denying the music website her latest platinum-selling album '1989'.
In a recent op-ed with The Wall Street Journal, Swift had said said "piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically...Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It's my opinion that music should not be free."
Spotify's Ek said that his company shouldn't be looked at in isolation. "Even though Taylor can pull her music off Spotify (where we license and pay for every song we've ever played), her songs are all over services and sites like YouTube and Soundcloud, where people can listen all they want for free….sure enough, if you looked at the top spot on The Pirate Bay last week, there was '1989.'"
Pay-outs for "top artists" like Swift (before she pulled her catalog) "are on track to exceed $6 million a year," Ek noted. "Any way you cut it, one thing is clear – we're paying an enormous amount of money to labels and publishers for distribution to artists and songwriters, and significantly more than any other streaming service."
Defending the company's business model, Ek said that Spotify has a mixture of free music supported by ads and a premium subscriber service that removes ads and allows users to download music to listen to offline.
Both models mean that artists are paid by Spotify, Ek said, adding that the "free service drives our paid service."
"We're connecting artists to fans they would never have otherwise found, and we're paying them for every single listen. We're not just streaming, we're mainstreaming now, and that's good for music makers and music lovers around the world."