Taylor Swift relies on clout and class to secure a unique streaming deal for fellow musicians

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Whether it was Voltaire or Peter Parker (Spiderman’s Uncle Ben) who said it does not much matter. The important thing is the those responsible for generating and using intellectual property – the coin of the realm –  believe it.

Taylor Swift is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She has already generated more than 130 million streams. But her pop-star status belies her intelligence and vision.

Swift has famously blacklisted Apple for not paying musicians and removed her content from Spotify because of their paltry pay-outs until she got a better deal for musicians. Recently, Swift locked down a highly lucrative record contract with Universal Music Group’s Republic Records, while securing an unprecedented streaming deal for thousands fellow singer-songwriters on the UMG label.

One stipulation of Swift’s new contract states that if UMG sells any of its shares in Spotify, which went public in April, that money must be redistributed to the label’s artists and cannot be recouped. UMG’s 3.5% stake in Spotify has been valued at as high as $1 billion.

Historic Tumblr Post

Swift reportedly prioritized that artists rights over negotiating for ownership of her highly valuable old masters and a bigger cash advance. Largesse of this kind is unprecedented. Swift stated in Tumblr post:

I [also] feel strongly that streaming was founded on and continues to thrive based on the magic created by artists, writers, and producers. 

There was one condition that meant more to me than any other deal point. As part of my new contract with Universal Music Group, I asked that any sale of their Spotify shares result in a distribution of money to their artists, non-recoupable.

‘Non-recoupable’ means that if a recording artist owes UMB money as a result of a cash advance from the label (often the case with younger artists) the proceeds from the sale of Spotify stock cannot be used to pay down the debt. That cash (Swift’s contract states) is to be used expressly for the musicians, many of whom have been paid almost nothing for their Spotify streams while helping build the company’s market value, which has been as high as $35 billion.

Spotify executives have been cashing in some of their valuable shares – why not the musicians who helped to build that value?

She demanded that Apple make sure artists were
compensated 
during Apple Music’s free trials in 2015; and went on a
three-year boycott of Spotify over royalty payouts

IP behavior matters 

“Taylor Swift has been consistent her whole career about protecting the value of music copyrights not just her own,” said David Lowery, lead singer of Cracker and publisher of the Trichordist in the January IAM magazine, here. “IP holders and users both can learn something from her: protecting IP as a matter of principle lifts all boats.”

Swift’s strategy with UMG and Spotify, as well as Apple, is not for effect – it is genuine. Her vision of the future reflects a keen sense of history and an uncanny instinct for survival. Without a truly viable music industry, she suggests, everyone will suffer, even if a handful of top artists may prosper for a while.

For Swift, IP behavior matters. It begins by creating an environment conducive to quality and success.

Let us hope that her bold moves will not go unnoticed by those who generate and own inventions, authored works and other types of creative output. It’s a big IP world and we all have to live in it.

Image source: Irish Times; http://fr.fanpop.com

3 comments

  1. Perhaps the most significant white collar crime in American History has been brought by internet platforms. They have syphoned over $100B. from the entertainment industry in the form of unpaid copyright compensation and the ensuing devaluation of creative works.

    Liked by 1 person

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