Taylor Swift became Spotify’s most outspoken critic when she yanked her entire catalog of music from the company's streaming platform last year. U2's Bono, on the other hand, now appears to be its biggest champion. The Irish singer just published a blog post that praises Spotify for converting musical freeloaders into paying customers. Swift and Bono are both among the music industry’s biggest superstars, so why the difference of opinion?
Swift hasn't minced words in expressing her opinion that Spotify does not pay enough in royalties. But Bono appears to be thinking longer-term. He lauded the service for reintroducing the notion that music is a pleasure worth paying for.
"Songwriters are getting a poor deal right now. The reason I respect for-fee services like Spotify is that they are slowly turning people who are used to getting their music for free into paying ten dollars a month," wrote Bono, who is still recovering from a serious Central Park cycling accident. The U2 frontman also praised Apple's iTunes service for similar reasons, despite having had to apologize for the forced inclusion of the band's "Songs of Innocence" album on the iPhone 6.
Swift notably dismissed Spotify as "a grand experiment," saying, "I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music."
There are also generational differences between U2 and Swift that can't be dismissed. The Dublin band debuted in the 1980s, and built its fortunes on royalties collected from radio stations and other broadcast outlets. Swift became a star on the Internet, where consumers have gotten used to the notion of cutting out the middleman.
"Her audience will pay for digital download-to-own, so why dilute that at all?" said Mike McGuire, a research vp at Gartner. "Withholding from the streaming world and going more direct results in a better cut. She's a younger artist without decades of publishing royalties, yet she's already successful around the globe."
Back to Bono. He’s not only part of one of the most successful acts in music history, but as co-founder of Elevation Partners with venture capitalist Roger McNamee, he’s also a tech entrepreneur who may be more receptive to exploring new e-commerce models, even if they’re not perfect at first. "It's up to everyone who makes music to determine if they want their music to be sold on services like Spotify," said Brian Zisk, creator of the San Francisco MusicTech Summit.