CLAIRE ATKINSON 12/26/12 NY Post
Like one of her famous break-up ballads, Taylor Swift has a message for streaming music services: “We are never ever getting together… Like ever.”
Taylor’s record label, Big Machine, spurned Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and other services that stream songs for free or through low monthly subscriptions in a bid to spur sales of her latest album “Red.”
The move not only paid off for the country chanteuse, it has a growing number of artists and record execs wondering if they should snub streaming services as well.
“Red” finished its fifth week at No. 1, an astounding feat on top of the fact her album sold 1.2 million copies on its first week. That was the biggest opening week for a non-discounted album — no 99-cent gimmicks on Amazon — in a decade.
Taylor joined other major artists, including Adele’s “21” and Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto,” in holding off making their albums available for streaming until weeks and sometimes months after their release.
Their success comes in stark contrast to Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” and Green Day’s “Tre,” which have posted lackluster sales despite being widely available via streaming services.
With US album sales down 4.4 percent to 218.4 million in the first nine months of the year — and Pandora racking up a billion listening hours a month off the back of 150 million registered users, a third of whom are streaming music daily — the debate is raging in the music world over which is the right approach.
Revenue is clearly tougher to come by in a world where streaming services dominate.
Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta has said that streaming services just don’t offer a viable business model for his artists.
“It doesn’t make sense to a small record company,” Borchetta told Billboard magazine, referring to Spotify, which offers a free ad-supported service as well as a premium subscription tier.
Plenty of artists complain that the revenue from streaming songs is a pittance, delivering less than a penny per play.
To be sure, some music execs believe that streaming and cloud-based services are a growing piece of the pie and that fans’ wishes cannot be ignored.
“My view is that you can’t stop consumers. They want to stream and be in the cloud,” Irving Azoff, CEO of Frontline Management and executive chairman of Live Nation, told The Post. “The reason for the physical decline isn’t because of streaming, but because [retailers] don’t want to carry physical CDs anymore.”
Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman thinks that streaming services shouldn’t all be lumped together. Clear Channel, for instance, operates iHeart, which gives fans access to stations across the nation via digital platforms.
“Streaming radio doesn’t have a negative effect,” Pittman said. “Radio tends to promote, though some streaming services are basically a music collection you use instead of buying the songs. Like the movies, they have to balance all the windows. Where do I put it and when, and who is the likely buyer and how much promotion should I do?”