Following the footsteps of another global phenomenon, Adele takes her album off the availability list for Spotify. What does this mean for the industry that is trying to put a stop to illegal downloading?
The chart topping songstress took the Taylor Swift route, according to sources at Spotify, to make her album unavailable as part of the music streaming service. With two leading ladies taking a stand against the streaming service—plus a new outlet, Apple Music—the online music business may be in fear of losing listeners to illegal downloading.
With Adele’s first album in 4 years, 25 is expected to sell over 2.5 million copies its first week; the album’s single “Hello” has already been downloaded 1.1 million times, and it’s video, produced by French Canadian director Xavier Dolan, has been viewed on YouTube 400 million times.
Adele, and her company, Sony Corporation, mutually made the decision based on Adele’s wide demographic. Unlike most pop music artists, Adele caters to a very wide fan base, not just teenagers watching YouTube, but also adults who are likely to go out and buy an album rather than stream online. With music purchases producing more money for the artist than streaming plays, it’s hard to tell Adele that she’s making a bad decision.
And this isn’t the first time the singer has come up against Spotify. In 2011 with the release of 21, Adele pulled her album due to the fact that subscribers weren’t limited to the number of plays allowed. Swift’s position against the company was similar. That American fans be limited to their number of plays is another argument to add to the fire with Spotify, but with Adele, downloading a Virtual Private Network wouldn’t help you listen to her album. She’s all about cutting down on plays across the board.
Adele’s not all restriction however. Unlike Spotify and Apple Music, Pandora Internet Radio, which follows different licensing rules than it’s rivals, will be streaming the album on its website a few days after its worldwide release. The singer also has a deal with Target, where customers who buy the album from the chain, selling at $13.99 on Target.com, will get 3 bonus songs over the $10.99 purchase on iTunes.
While it’s a huge uptick for the music industry—fondly called “the Adele Effect”—that albums be sold rather than accessed through streaming sites or repeated plays on an online playlist, there is revenue to be lost for the streaming services, who otherwise are a strong contender in the failing music industry. With the continued rise of illegal downloading, online streaming sites have managed to grow to be 10 percent of music industry revenue, attempting to bring back listeners from the land of piracy.
Big artists such as Adele and Beyonce are earning less per play than by album buy, but the growth of online streaming hasn’t put a stop to album sales as much, and artists can always make their music available to stream at a later date, after the initial release of their new album when record sales have dwindled.
According to research conducted by Rolling Stone, the actual numbers and money figures that come from music plays is a difficult equation. With most streaming services like Spotify, musicians earn $.09 cents for every 60 listens, for Pandora it’s around $.001 per song. For every $1.29 purchase on iTunes, around $.20 cents goes back to the artist, with $.09 cents for the songwriter. Record labels can also bank on an artist’s YouTube plays—$1 for every thousand plays, even if it’s not an official music video, but a fan made video that went viral—which can really bring in the revenue. And for straight album sales, an album that’s almost $18 can have as little as less than $2 go back to the artist. But don’t feel sorry for the artist’s yet, that’s just in music. Most mainstream pop musicians benefit much more from concert tickets, merchandise and sponsorships.
The jury may still be out on whether it’s a tactic that will benefit or hurt an artist, since no one has ever made the claim that online streaming has caused a decline of album sales. It’s almost guaranteed that for a top-charted artist like Adele, it doesn’t matter where the music comes from, the fans are going to find it.
Spotify commented saying: “We love and respect Adele, as do her 24m fans on Spotify. We hope that she will give those fans the opportunity to enjoy 25 on Spotify alongside 19 and 21 very soon.” But will it be enough to get the music up for listeners? It’s a time-tested fact that anytime Adele hits the public with a new set of songs from her one of a kind pipes, we all rush to listen, and this time is likely to be no different.
Only time, and the success of album sales, will tell.