The lives of those in the entertainment industry have become significantly more transparent in the past ten years, none more than pop stars, who regularly document their every move on Twitter and even show us what they’ve had for breakfast via Instagram.
Their relationships with others, which previously played out in gossip magazines and tabloids, have become more visible – and in real time. Sure, in the ‘90s we had bust-ups between boybands and bitchy remarks between Britney and Christina, but never before have we been able to see behind the showbiz curtain so much as we can today – as evidenced by Zayn Malik’s outburst towards Calvin Harris and Taylor Swift, this week.
In the latest of the 22-year-old’s Twitter attacks, the former 1D singer posted a meme that, pretty much, spelled out his thoughts about Taylor Swift’s assumed greed, for refusing to allow her music to be made available on Spotify. The music streaming app charges users just $9.99 per month and in return gives – or rather lends them – a catalogue of music they can stream on their phones, tablets and laptops.
It has revolutionised the music industry and, as demonstrated by Ms Swift, has made artists question the small payments deposited into their accounts. These payments are a far cry from the days of shifting CD units, or more recently, iTunes downloads – the latter costing an average of €0.99 per track or $12.99 for a full-length album, with varying prices for the money-making deluxe editions and repacks.
Spotify claims to pay out between $0.006 and $0.0084 to labels per stream, while a 2015 study by the website, Information is Beautiful, suggests that after the label has taken its cut, the artist would receive $0.001128. This is assuming the artist in question has a good, fair deal with their label though of course there are those who jumped in with two feet signing shadier contracts.
Zayn Malik is laying foundations for his solo career with a string of Twitter-wars
Dale Olivier, Managing Director of UK independent label Matchbox Recordings, has felt the change since he launched the company in 2000: “It’s extremely hard for independent artists and labels to collect the same revenue from their music as they used to with the old music industry model”, he explained. “Bigger artists like Taylor Swift may be in a position to turn down exposure of being on apps like Spotify, or Miley Cyrus might argue that she doesn’t care how much she gets paid as she ‘already has a house’, but for new artists it’s essential to be on there to be heard – it’s a catch 22 situation. There is a good feeling about artists like Swift taking a stand by using their power in the market to try to initiate change though”, Oliver added.
Back to the case study – it was discovered this year that for an artist to earn the American minimum wage per month of $1,260, they would have to be streamed 1,117,021 times on Spotify if they were a major label act, or 96,923 times if independent.
Those are startling numbers particularly if, unlike Taylor Swift, you’re not making up for it by playing stadiums and arenas; but instead, universities and theatres, or worse still, paying to play – but that’s a different story for a different day.
Harris commands $400k a gig at Las Vegas’ Hakkasan clubs
Top DJ Calvin Harris, who commands $400,000 per gig as part of a Las Vegas residency stuck up for Swift, who he has been dating since March this year, telling Malik: “If you don’t get what it means when a successful artist uses their celebrity to benefit every other musician and songwriter in the industry…while you kids are refresh voting Teen Choice Awards, there’s some poor fucker in a basement making your new favourite record trying to survive”. Many continued to ask, was the 25-year-old singer looking out for young unsigned acts, or was she simply attempting to shift more downloads at iTunes and physical copies of the album – which are almost an afterthought to much of the public these days.
She certainly doesn’t need the money. In the past year alone she released ‘1989’, her self-proclaimed “first pop album”, that broke away from her country roots – something she had already started laying the foundations for on her previous record, ‘Red’. Its supporting tour has grossed over $86 million to date, and her fans, who identify as “Swifties”, likely do as they are told by their idol. It’s the type of fandom previously experienced by Gaga and before her, Madonna – a staunch support and loyalty that’s not so common in today’s music marketplace where one-hit-wonders are less of a novelty than those who make it past their debut.
Not Exactly Strapped: Swift’s latest tour grossed $86 million
Unlike Miley Cyrus, who was the other popstar referred to in Malik’s tweet, Taylor Swift’s shock tactics don’t tend to revolve around her body or causing a scene! Usually, there’s a cause, like earlier this year when Apple launched its own streaming service to rival Spotify, one glaringly obvious point to prove if it was to stand a chance at rising above the success of Spotify – and lest we forget Jay Z’s ill-fated Tidal – was to succeed where others had failed and get Taylor Swift on board.
Offering users a three-month trial period free of charge was Apple’s way of luring music lovers from its competitors, but making the decision that artists would not be paid royalties for streams during this time did not go down well with industry folks. Most stayed quiet, Swift wrote an open letter, charmingly entitled ‘To Apple, Love Taylor”.
Acting as a spokesperson for her peers, Swift wrote: “I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from Apple Music. I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”
Apple lead the change the last time the industry was shook, can it do the same again?