Spotify CEO Explains How Ticking Off Taylor Swift Was Big For Business, Still Wants Her Back

Taylor Swift once said of the streaming music scene, and Spotify in particular, that it feels like a "grand experiment," one in which she's not willing to contribute her life's work to because it doesn't fairly compensate the artists, song writers, and everyone else who contributes to the creation of music. She ended up pulling her library of songs from Spotify, though looking back on the situation. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek says the high profile breakup actually benefited the company.

To be clear, Ek isn't lashing out at Swift, who removed her songs from Spotify just prior to the launch of her "1989" album. However, letting Swift walk without meeting her and her PR team's demands amounted to a sorry-not-sorry moment for Spotify, which is on pace to reach 100 million users by the end of the year.


"The middle of America found out what Spotify was, so we had a big success," Ek said through a video feed at the IAB Mixx interactive advertising conference in New York, according to CNET. "I wish we could have gotten that attention in a better way than pissing off Taylor Swift."

Swift's point of contention with Spotify was that users of the service's ad-supported tier could listen to her music at no cost. Even though Swift was still being compensated for her tunes streamed to non-subscribing music listeners, she felt strongly that it created a culture in which consumers would view music as being worthless.

"I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free," Swift told Yahoo Music in an interview at the time.

Spotify held firm in its decision to allow users of its ad-supported tier to listen to its entire catalog of music for free, and so Swift hightailed it out of there. That decision never sat well with Ek, who noted at the time that "Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, and art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it." To that end, Ek noted that Spotify had paid out $2 billion to labels, publishers, and collecting societies through November 2014 "and if that money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way, that's a big problem." Translation: if music artists have a beef with the amount of money they're receiving from streaming services, blame the music labels.

Taylor Swift

Swift wasn't singling out Spotify with her disdain for free access to her music. She also played hardball with Apple when it announced a three month free trial for its recently launched Apple Music service. Apple initially planned to not compensate artists for the first three months, but after hearing Swift's message loud and clear, the company reversed course and said it would pay artists during the trial period after all. Swift's previous shunning of Spotify no doubt played a role in Apple's decision.

Despite the differences in opinion over the streaming model, Ek is hopeful Swift will return to Spotify "in the not too distant future," according to The Drum.

"We do agree with her and we do care, but what we are trying to do is move these people who are on platforms that aren't monetizing music at all into legal requirements such as Spotify," Ek explained.

Unless Ek is willing to change Spotify's business model, getting Swift back might be wishful thinking. She is, after all, a mega pop star with a net worth of $240 million and generating $80 million per year, according to Celebrity Net Worth, so it's not as though she can't pay the power bill without Spotify. Likewise, Spotify seems to be doing just fine without Swift.