British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran was one of the big winners at last nights inaugural BBC Music Awards, and almost immediately stepped into controversy. The Guardian reports that 23-year-old Sheeran, whose second album 'X' has sold over 1 million copies, won the award for the Best British Artist of 2014 at the glittering ceremony held in London last night.
Speaking backstage after the ceremony Sheeran praised online streaming service Spotify, saying, "My music has been streamed 860 million times, which means that it's getting out to people. I'm playing sold-out gigs in South America, I've sold out arenas in Korea and south-east Asia."
Sheeran went on to say, "I don't think I'd be able to do that without Spotify. For me, Spotify is not even a necessary evil. It helps me do what I want to do."
Sheerans' comments fly in the face of the views of many artists who criticize what they see as pitifully low rates paid to artists by Spotify. Bands like The Beatles, AC/DC, and, The Black Keys are all unavailable on Spotify, citing the streaming rates paid to artists which can be as low as $0.007 (£0.0045) per play. Ed's comments may well land him in hot water with singer Taylor Swift, who has been romantically linked with Sheeran and is a critic of the service.
ED Sheeran has every reason to be happy with Spotify, of course. After all, Ed can sit back and reflect on the fact that 860 million plays will have earned him in excess of $6 million. Sheeran is the most played artist on the streaming service this year. Being popular on Spotify does not seem to have harmed Ed Sheeran's album sales too much either; his album X has sold over 1 million copies in the UK, and has topped the chart for 9 weeks. It also hit the top of the Billboard chart in the U.S., selling more than 200,000 copies in its first week.
"Thinking Out Loud," the third single from Sheeran's album, has also topped the charts for the past couple of weeks.
Whilst Sheeran told BBC News that "Spotify are paying the right amount," he also said that he respected other artists views, but he felt the royalty rates were fair. Sheeran went on to say that many of the artists who were withholding their music from streaming services were already big sellers.
Of course, it is easy for Ed Sheeran to say that Spotify's model works for him, but there can be little doubt that for many less known artists the rates offered make it very difficult to make a living as a musician. Ed Sheeran may feel that he "owes his career to Spotify," but thousand of artists feel it is killing theirs.