Sony Rethinks Free Music Streaming After Taylor Swift

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 11.18.14 in News

Music fans may not have to pony up for streaming just yet, but the possibility is under discussion. Taylor Swift‘s decision to pull her music from Spotify has prompted at least one of the three major labels to reconsider where it stands on free music streaming.

Sony Music finance chief Kevin Kelleher said at a company briefing today that “a lot of conversation has taken place over the last week in light of” Swift’s move, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. “What it all really comes down to is how much value are the music company and the artist getting from the different consumption methods.”

Kelleher said Sony is still “very encouraged” by the rise of paid, subscription-based streaming. “The key question is, are the free, ad-supported services taking away from how quickly and to what extent we can grow those paid services?” he said. “That’s something we’re paying attention to as content owners who license our content to the different platforms. It’s an area that’s gotten everyone’s attention.”

The Sony executive wasn’t alone in weighing in on Swift’s much-debated removal of her music from Spotify.

Blake Shelton has told BuzzFeed that Spotify is still in “an experimental phase,” siding with Swift and his fellow country singer Jason Aldean. “When you look at the numbers, it’s easy to say ‘That’s Taylor Swift — why is she so worried about money?’” Shelton said. “But when you talk about other writers and songwriters on the album who aren’t Taylor Swift, it hits them pretty hard. I don’t disagree with her at all.”

Maroon 5‘s Adam Levine, Shelton’s co-host on The Voice, paralleled Dave Grohl’s recent comment that it doesn’t matter to him what people pay as long as they hear his music. “Music is for everyone,” Levine told BuzzFeed. “I don’t care how anybody obtains it as long as they it and enjoy and love it.” He mentioned listeners should be “supporting the artist in some way.” Then it got zen: “Music should be able to be wherever it is,” Levine said. “That’s how I feel.”

Swift dropped her music from Spotify upon the release of her huge-selling new album, 1989. Her Big Machine Records label head, Scott Borchetta, has said publicly the label decided to pull her music from any free music streaming service (though her videos remain free on YouTube and Vevo). After Spotify’s CEO suggested Swift could have earned $6 million a year from the service, Borchetta said the label had actually received less than $500,000 in the past 12 months.

A new ad-supported streaming music service from Google, YouTube Music Key, is scheduled to begin rolling out today to invite-only beta users. Subscribers to Google’s existing streaming service, Google Play Music, also get an early look at YouTube Music Key, according to USA Today.