Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has a number for Taylor Swift: $2 billion. Ek revealed in a blog post today that Spotify has paid out that much to labels, publishers and others “for distribution to songwriters and recording artists” since its launch, with half of that coming in the past year.
The post comes after Swift announced that she was pulling her music from Spotify, and wouldn’t be releasing her new album “1989” on streaming services. Calling streaming music a “grand experiment,” Swift said that she isn’t willing to offer her music up to Spotify listeners because it didn’t feel right to her.
In a statement, the artist said that she felt having her songs available for free devalued her music, and that streaming services didn’t compensate artists enough.
“Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it. We started Spotify because we love music and piracy was killing it,” Ek responds in his post. “So all the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time.”
Ek took issue with Swift’s classification of the music as “free,” saying that no matter what, Spotify pays artists, thanks to its ad-supported model. The service also has 12.5 million paid subscribers, who are forking over $120 a year to listen to unlimited, ad-free music.
The way Ek sees it, artists should view Spotify streams as more comparable to radio plays rather than music purchases. He said that 500,000 streams of a single song on Spotify translate into $3,000-4,000 paid to a recording artist. Swift was apparently on pace to make $6 million from Spotify this year, before she pulled her entire catalog from the service.
If there’s one thing that’s clear, streaming music will go on, even if Swift doesn’t plan on getting back together with them any time soon. Rhapsody brought in $44 million in revenue during the third quarter of this year, and other companies like Spotify, Deezer and Rdio continue to grow in popularity.
Still, it’s not clear how much sway’s Ek’s argument will hold. Swift’s album has sold 1.3 million copies in its first week, which translates to about $12 million in revenue. That’s twice what Ek said Swift was on pace to earn from Spotify this year.