NEW YORK – There’s a heavyweight fight going on in the music industry. In one corner, Spotify, the world’s biggest music streaming service, offering unlimited streaming of millions of songs for a $10/month subscription fee.
In the other, the world’s best-selling pop artist of 2014, Taylor Swift, who yanked her entire back catalog off the service after releasing her new album, “1989.”
"I think there should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify," Swift told Time.
If the fight had stopped there, Spotify probably would have been happy. But it didn’t. Swift’s fellow Big Machine Records label mates Justin Moore and Brantley Gilbert recently removed their latest records in a “mutual decision” the label and artists came to, a Big Machine spokesman told FOX411. And popular Broken Bow country artist Jason Aldean also took his newest album off of Spotify.
And Garth Brooks never let any of his music on the service. Same with AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Bob Seger and Tool.
So if this small but powerful group of artists becomes even larger, is Spotify in trouble? So far, they’re not panicking.
“We've been able to give consumers what they want which is an amazing streaming experience,” a Spotify spokesman told FOX411. “We love Taylor Swift and we'd love to have her back on. She has millions of fans on Spotify."
But how can record labels update their business models to keep up with the constantly changing way people consume music in the Spotify era? According to the streaming service, they offer a $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream, resulting in $500 million for 2013.
Before Swift pulled her tunes, her new single "Shake It Off" was streamed 46.3 million times resulting in a $280,000-$390,000 payout for October alone, Time calculated.
But that wasn't enough.
“I commend [Taylor Swift] because she’s starting a debate on something that’s been going on for a while but bringing it to another level,” former record label executive and Freshwire CEO and founder Shawn Amos told FOX411. “It’s easy to paint Spotify as the bogeyman but I think we're just at the very early stages of figuring out this whole new [revenue] model.”
Swift’s removal of her catalogue from music streaming service Spotify was a way for the artist to advocate for the future of music, as musicians battle piracy like never before, experts say.
One artist who has long been taking a stand against the machine is country singer Garth Brooks who has kept his music from iTunes and services like Spotify.
“I think the thing is you just have to put the music first,” Brooks told FOX411. “The government passed a lot of laws really quickly that allowed technology to kind of just use music as a tool without paying for it, and I'd like to see the government revisit that because music could come back to front and center if we could get some help.”
While digital download services like iTunes helped boost music sales after programs like Napster provided an easy way to pirate music, some say Spotify is providing a solution to digital download sales declining as people listen to music for free on YouTube.
“Spotify is definitely the wave of the future,” A/V editor at DigitalTrends.com Caleb Denison told FOX411. “Spotify’s CEO said that it’s biggest competitor is piracy. Musicians and Spotify are going to need to work happily together rather than waging a war in the public eye. You’ve got to start striking deals at some point.”
Amos, himself an independent artist with music available on Spotify, explained that the music industry is “freaking out” because “old ways of making revenue are drying up” and it’s the tech companies that are coming up with solutions.
“There needs to be a realization that the genie is not going back into the bottle,” said Amos. “The ways that people consume and enjoy music is fundamentally different then it has been and people need to grow up and understand that.”
The solution? Get everyone together at the same time and placing a higher value on music.
“I think people need to be at the table at the same time,” Amos argued. “Record labels, music publishers, artists, tech companies – all four depend on each other to make this work…[and] maybe there's a little bit of a fundamental lack of respect as to what music means – it’s not disposable.”
Garth Brooks has come up with his own solution – GhostTunes.
“My thing is never ever will a retailer tell me as long as I own my masters how I’m going to sell [my music],” Brooks explained. “So if that means I never sell one piece anymore from now on I'm fine with that…GhostTunes was sweet enough to come to me and approach me and say, ‘I think we can build a format for you and anybody else's music that wants to be sold the way they want to sell it.’”
While Brooks and Swift are able to make decisions about where they host their music, independent artists aren’t as lucky, Amos explained.
“I fall into the independent artist camp and music is a two class system right now,” said Amos. “There's the Taylor Swifts of the world and everybody else. Spotify is really a marketing tool [for independent artists]...most of us look at it from [being] desperate to getting music in front of people in a really saturated environment."
Follow Sasha Bogursky on Twitter @SashaFB.