Spotify may have to change one of its core principles if it wants to stream Adele's new album.
In 2013, Spotify missed out on Beyoncé’s massive eponymous album, which was exclusive to iTunes. In 2014, Taylor Swift batted the company around in the press, calling it "an experiment" as she kept the biggest album of the year, 1989, off the service. Now Adele may be the latest to join their ranks, as she considers keeping her upcoming album 25 off Spotify, unless they meet her demands. When you may end up missing out on the album launch window from the world’s three biggest artists, it may be time to reassess your business model.
Adele and her team have been pushing Spotify to limit the release of her third album, 25, to paid subscribers only, which would shrink the availability of the album to around 20 million of the streaming service’s 75 million total users, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Spotify has resisted the proposal and has yet to find out if 25 will be available to stream on the platform. Spotify denies this is the case. In a statement to The Verge, a senior executive at Spotify said "It is categorically untrue that anyone has asked us to feature Adele’s new album on premium only.”
Can Spotify miss out on the biggest album of the year, again?
Spotify is in a tough spot; the company could change their rules to get Adele’s new album on the service and rack up an enormous week of streams, but doing so would run the risk of alienating their largest user group, and have artists around the world demanding their new releases be limited to paid users. Or they could turn down Adele’s demand and hope that missing out on the biggest album of the year — for the third year in a row — won’t infuriate all of its users and push them to consider switching services. (Spotify did try premium-only content once, but it was for a marketing campaign with Sony PlayStation, and it was Muse. You didn’t miss anything.)
And that’s not the end of it. The forever-cool British rock band Coldplay has not committed to putting its next album, A Head Full of Dreams, on Spotify when it’s released on December 4th, according to a source. The group kept its last two albums, Ghost Stories and Mylo Xyloto, off Spotify for months — a process known in the industry as "windowing" — before releasing them on the streaming service. If Spotify ends up without the latest releases from Taylor Swift, Adele, and Coldplay, its strategy of having an equal music library for all of its users, paid and ad-supported, will have to be reassessed.
Before Adele released her monumental sophomore album 21 in 2011, she pushed Spotify to make it available to paid subscribers only, but the streaming service did not want to fragment its music catalogs. But 2011 was a different time — Adele didn’t have the leverage she carries now, and Spotify wasn’t closing in on 100 million users. 21 went on to sell 30 million albums worldwide and 10 million albums in the US alone, turning Adele into a household name, and Spotify went from a company solely operating in Europe to the most widely used paid streaming service in the US.
Adele still doesn't need to stream her album
While the profiles of both the artist and the company have grown vastly, Adele’s impact has reached astronomical levels. Predictions for first-week sales of 25 range between 1.3 million albums all the way up to a staggering 2 million albums according to label sources, numbers that haven’t been touched since 2001 when Britney Spears racked up 1.3 million albums sold in her first week with Oops!... I Did It Again.
Despite the growth of streaming music and the expanded reach of streaming services, with those kinds of numbers expected in her first week, Adele still doesn't need to stream her album. But Spotify may need Adele. It’s hard to call yourself the best streaming service around if you’re missing the newest albums from the world’s two biggest artists in Adele and Taylor Swift, and potentially Coldplay. (Beyoncé added the re-release of her eponymous album to the service last year.)
Apple Music is likely to have 25 within a few weeks of its release
What about paid services like Apple Music and Google Play Music? Although no commitments have been made by Adele’s team, sources indicate Apple Music is likely to have 25 within a few weeks of its release, if not on launch day. There are no ad-supported tiers on the service, which clears the biggest hurdle to getting 25 on the service. Multiple sources also indicate that Apple Music tried to sign Adele for an exclusive release of 25 this past summer, but was rebuffed by the singer and her team.
Whether 25 hits streaming services when it’s released worldwide on November 20th is still in question, but it looks like the album will eventually make its way to paid-only streaming services at the least. But right now Adele holds all the cards, and everyone is stuck playing the waiting game until she’s ready to show her hand.
Adele's manager declined to comment. Spotify and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
Update: Tuesday, November 10th, 4:35 PM: Updated with a statement from Spotify denying that Adele’s team asked for her new album to be "premium only."