That gives the 1989 singer/songwriter the channel with the second-highest 2014 earnings overall, behind the toddler-beloved toy reviewer DisneyCollectorBR but ahead of South Park-visiting video game commentator PewDiePie.
Swift’s channel is easily the biggest earner from the music world; emimusic, which also made the top five, raked in an estimated $3.1 million. The only other music-related channel in the top 10 lands at No. 8 courtesy of Spinnin’ Records, an electronic dance brand with YouTube income pegged at $2.5 million. The estimates are based on a formula of monthly views and subscriptions.
The figures further demonstrate Swift’s commercial clout, but they probably won’t silence the debate over her decision to leave Spotify. When it comes to what Swift would’ve earned from Spotify, the numbers disagree. The streaming service’s CEO, Daniel Ek, initially suggested she was on track to take in $6 million a year. Swift’s label boss, Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta, said her U.S. payout from Spotify over the past 12 months had been $496K. A Spotify rep at the time said her global payout over the same period had been $2 million. It’s a case of he-said, she-said, though let’s hope Swift doesn’t write a song about it.
Swift continues to factor heavily into discussions of the rise in streaming as compared with old-fashioned sales. In the final week of 2014, Swift’s 1989 edged out Disney’s Frozen soundtrack to become the biggest seller of the year. As The New York Times reports, though, Frozen still did better based on Billboard‘s new metric of “album equivalent units”: While 1989 sold 3.66 million copie in the United States compared to Frozen‘s 3.53 million, Frozen moved 4.47 million of the streaming-included units, versus 4.40 million for Swift.
Swift’s gains from YouTube also come as the music community wrestles with how it feels about the “freemium” model, where streaming services offer both free and paid versions. Spotify uses the freemium model; YouTube only recently added a paid subscription music service to its standard free offering. Borchetta, the Big Machine CEO, has said Spotify had refused the label’s request to keep Swift’s music limited to the service’s paid tier.
The issue of freemium surfaced, too, in a recent year-in-review essay by U2‘s Bono. “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 for a subscription model,” Bono wrote. “These payments don’t add up to replacement for income from physical or digital sales at the moment — but I think they can if everyone sits down — record companies, artists and digital services — to figure out a fairer way of doing business.”