Adele's long-awaited new album 25 won't be available for streaming when it's released tomorrow. The New York Times reported on the British superstar's decision in an article this afternoon. "The major digital services have been told that 25 will not be made available for streaming, according to three people with direct knowledge of the plans for the release," wrote reporter Ben Sisario. The Verge has independently confirmed the report.
The decision is arriving in the wake of weeks of internal discussion regarding the album's initial availability, discussion that was only rendered more heated by the phenomenal success of lead single "Hello." (It became the first single to sell over a million American downloads in a single week on its way to a #1 debut after being released on October 23rd.) Billboard has reported that 25 could have the highest-selling debut week since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking album sales in 1991.
The subject of Adele's streaming decision was first broached in a November 5th report from The New York Times. At the time, Adele was still figuring out whether or not to make the album available on services like Spotify and Apple Music upon its release on November 20th; "Hello" was widely released across streaming services. The Verge's Micah Singleton reported last week that Adele was considering holding 25 off of Spotify because of the streaming service's reluctance to limit the album's availability to its paid subscribers. (He also reported that Coldplay was considering doing the same for their upcoming LP A Head Full of Dreams.)
Adele's decision has immense commercial and cultural ramifications
For an artist with Adele's commercial power, the decision to release music on some platforms and not others has immense commercial and cultural ramifications. Artists believe streaming services have the potential to cannibalize their early sales, and that's a big concern when their albums could be on track to sell millions of copies in their first week of availability. Label sources have pegged 25's first-week sales at a number well above that threshold, and it makes sense for Adele on both a promotional and a financial level to make sure the album gets as close to that upper limit as possible. And because she's one of the music industry's most successful and respected artists, any decision Adele makes has the chance to set a precedent. If holding music off of a given service or releasing it in a certain way works well, other artists will probably adopt versions of Adele's strategy for their own music.
She's done this before
She isn't the first artist to use her immense popularity as leverage in negotiations with streaming services — in fact, this isn't even the first time Adele's attempted this particular power play. Her 2011 smash 21 was held off Spotify for months for the same reason: the service was unwilling to gate any of its content depending on subscription type. The album was eventually made available, but the delay between street date and Spotify availability didn't seem to affect the album's success. Adele's sold over 30 million copies of 21 in the four years since its release. Sources say that Adele may ultimately employ the same strategy for 25, meaning it'll be available on services like Spotify and Apple Music months after its initial release date.
Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Drake have all monkeyed with traditional release strategies for new music in recent years. Beyoncé released her eponymous 2013 LP on iTunes and nowhere else, and it wasn't available for streaming in full for months; Swift yanked all of her music from Spotify in 2014 and compelled Apple to change its Apple Music royalty policy just weeks before the service's release with an open letter on Tumblr; and Drake's collaborative mixtape with Future, What a Time to Be Alive, was an Apple Music timed exclusive when it was released in September.