An article in the New York Post last week notes that Taylor Swift’s new album Red is not available for on-demand listening on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody. This is a strategy that other artists have used as well – Adele and Coldplay both held off making their new albums available on similar services. While it’s a leap to say that the strategy was the reason that the album had the best sales in its first weeks of any non-discounted album in the last decade, it’s reasonable to conclude that it didn’t hurt.
Streaming is growing in popularity and record sales are dropping. Some artists and their companies are seeing a relationship between the two and concluding that making their new releases available on these services is bad for song sales. Unfortunately, the amounts that they get paid by the services when listeners listen to their music doesn’t compare.
Ironically, Swift didn’t see fit to hold her album back from airplay on broadcast radio. A deal earlier this year means that she’s actually getting compensated to some degree by some big broadcast companies including Clear Channel when her songs play on the radio. While that probably doesn’t amount to much, it’s forging a new relationship between recording artists and radio.
It’s important to note that it’s the on-demand services that are getting shunned by Swift and others – Pandora has the album, as does iHeartRadio and other services that don’t enable listener to build playlists and request music by song, artist, album, etc.. There’s a growing perception that those services are being used as music collections and replacing song sales.
It may well be that artists, especially the big names, will continue to hold back their albums from services like Spotify for a while as part of their launch strategies. Or the services may find a way to be more relevant to those artists in their early song sales days, by providing data, promotion, sales support, in an effort to get back together again…