artists' payouts

Taylor Swift has never been one to shy away from fighting for what is rightfully hers when it comes to paychecks. You may remember when Taylor boycotted Spotify for three years until improvements were made for artists’ payouts. She won that battle. And on her last tour, she made an effort to fight back against ticket bots and scalpers with her loyalty program. It’s a model that’s since been adopted by other artists for their ticketing.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Taylor Swift’s most recent record deal, signed on Monday with Universal Music Group and Republic Records, may have set a new precedent for additional streaming rights (not already allocated for by the Music Modernization Act) for many artists on the label.

The three major record labels, Universal, Sony, and Warner, all took stakes in Spotify last year prior to the streaming giant’s IPO. All three promised that their artists would share in proceeds from their investment in Spotify shares. However, prior to the Swift contract, only Sony had followed through on some of those promises to include this money in artists’ payouts.

According to Rolling Stone, Swift’s newest contract ensures that “[Universal Music Group] must promise to hand over to artists, on a non-recoupable basis, a portion of the windfall from its Spotify shares in the future.” This means any future equity sale or dividend payment will result in money to artists signed to Universal, even if an artist owes the company for unrecovered advances.

Taylor Swift’s new deal ensures Spotify proceeds will not be withheld in any artist’s payout, regardless of existing debts, ensuring a potential paycheck for all of UMG’s signed artists from streaming, even if Spotify never increases their per stream payout. This is unheard of and is a great step forward in the seemingly never-ending quest for artists to be paid fairly in our current streaming era.