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Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify earlier this month, justifying her decision by reiterating her belief that music has value and should not be free. As she told Yahoo! Music, "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."
On Tuesday, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek posted a lengthy response to the "Blank Space" singer's comments, beginning by writing, "Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, art has real value and artists deserve to be paid for it."
"All the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time," admitted Ek, who said Spotfy has now paid $2 billion in royalties. "And that's two billion dollars' worth of listening that would have happened with zero or little compensation to artists and songwriters through piracy or practically equivalent services if there was no Spotify–we're working day and night to recover money for artists and the music business that piracy was stealing away."
"Our whole reason for existence is to help fans find music and help artists connect with fans through a platform that protects them from piracy and pays them for their amazing work," added Ek, noting that he and the team at Spotify are also "frustrated" to "hear stories about artists and songwriters who say they've seen little or no money from streaming."
"The music industry is changing–and we're proud of our part in that change–but lots of problems that have plagued the industry since its inception continue to exist. As I said, we've already paid more than $2 billion in royalties to the music industry and if that money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way, that's a big problem," wrote Ek. "We will do anything we can to work with the industry to increase transparency, improve speed of payments, and give artists the opportunity to promote themselves and connect with fans – that's our responsibility as a leader in this industry; and it's the right thing to do."
Ek went on to dispel several myths about Spotify, including the most common one, which is that the site doesn't pay artists. According to the Spotify exec, payouts for a top artist like Swift (before she pulled her music) "are on track to exceed $6 million a year, and that's only growing – we expect that number to double again in a year."
"Here's the thing I really want artists to understand: Our interests are totally aligned with yours," he went on. "We don't use music to drive sales of hardware or software. We use music to get people to pay for music. The more we grow, the more we'll pay you. We're going to be transparent about it all the way through. And we have a big team of your fellow artists here because if you think we haven't done well enough, we want to know, and we want to do better. None of that is ever going to change."
Ek concluded: "We're getting fans to pay for music again. 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."