Joining Coldplay, Paul McCartney and a few others, Adele – most likely with the encouragement of her record label, is boycotting Spotify, pulling her new album 21 from the service. This move is becoming more popular by artists looking to maximize sales of their new or newly award winning albums. There’s a growing opinion that giving listeners access to their new music on a service like Spotify, where listeners can select the song they want to hear whenever and as often as they would like, will hurt album sales, either digital or physical.
Apparently, Adele’s management was willing to license 21 to Spotify for premium, subscription paying listeners only, but this option was declined by Spotify. It’s not hard to understand why they declined it, as it could easily have a snowball effect on other artists.
There is a concerted effort by a growing list of popular artists to control the access that listeners have to their new music. Most of the recent moves have concentrated on limiting the kind of free, on-demand access that Spotify offers, although recently Paul McCartney reportedly blanked all streaming of his newly released album.
Note: Although there are multiple reports that Adele’s 21 is not available on Spotify, I do have access this morning to a “sampler” version of 21 in my Spotify library. I’m not sure if this is a new development, or a function of the fact that I have had it in my library for a while..
Coldplay released a new album this week and didn’t license subscription services such as Spotify to play it, a strategy that is raising concern for on-demand services. There’s been a debate brewing about the wisdom of offering brand new releases through on-demand subscription services and whether that has an impact on song and album sales.
After withholding their new album Mylo Xyloto from Spotify, Coldplay sold more digital albums that ever before in the UK – something that doesn’t bode well for on-demand services like Spotify. DMN reports that Coldplay sold more than 200,000 units in the UK alone, 40% of which were digital sales. Figures from US sales were not yet available.
Services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and MOG offer on demand song plays for a monthly subscription fee. But artists have been unhappy with the payouts from these services, and some are removing their new albums, or even their entire catalog from the playlists of some streaming services.
In a story on this topic, CNET quoted artist and indie label owner Sam Rosenthal pointing out that 5000 song plays on Spotify would earn him $6.50. An artist would earn $.20 per song download on iTunes, or $1000 for the same number of song sales.
But does an on demand song play on Spotify replace a song download? That’s a good question and one that no one can really answer. In the CNET article, Jon Irwin of Rhapsody claims that rather than cannibalizing song sales, on demand services are cannibalizing piracy – that inexpensive subscription services appeal to the younger listener who used to download all their music illegally and now pay a monthly fee instead.
Unfortunately, higher song sales for Coldplay after holding back their new album from Spotify doesn’t help on demand services make that point…