Taylor Swift’s decision to keep her new album “Reputation” off streaming services like Spotify will drive people back to piracy, said Spotify’s global head of creator services Troy Carter at the Internet Association’s Virtuous Circle Summit Monday morning. “A lot of it is going to be pirated,” he said. “It kind of sets the industry back a little bit.”
However, Carter also said that he understood Swift’s decision: “Taylor is super smart. We are not mad at her for the decision she made,” he said. Swift and Adele, who sold millions of copies of her “25” album while waiting seven months to release it to streaming services, are among the few artists who can withhold an album from such platforms without significantly impairing its exposure.
Carter, who managed artists including Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor before joining Spotify in 2016, was also critical about the music industry’s past business model. “We screwed over consumers for years,” he said, arguing that consumers were forced to buy highly priced albums for years that only included one or two songs they wanted. Carter drew a direct line from this attitude to exclusives on streaming services.
Some of the service’s competitors have long tried to gain market share with exclusive or windowed releases, but Spotify has been resisting this trend for years. “We just felt like it wasn’t a great consumer experience,” he said. What’s more, Carter argued that artists also weren’t interested in restricting their albums to a subset of their audience who happened to subscribe to one specific service. “It’s bad for consumers, bad for artists, bad for the music business.”
Carter extended his criticism to modern-day radio. “Radio has become this places that is so fear-driven and research driven, and advertising driven, that they forgot about the consumer,” he said. “They only want to play songs that are already hits.” Ultimately, this would lead to a generational gap, with younger audiences only tuning in to streaming services and YouTube, and foregoing radio altogether.
However, Carter also cautioned that the music industry shouldn’t take streaming’s success for granted: While he didn’t say so, Spotify is among the services that are probably many years away from profitability. “The music industry is celebrating on the one-yard line right now,” he said. “That scares me.”