Adele Proves Again that Spotify Needs Hits but Hits Don’t Need Spotify

What You Won’t See on Spotify

Following what is rapidly becoming standard industry practice, Adele’s “25” will not appear initially on streaming platforms.  Spotify and Apple Music are mentioned as “streaming platform” but I would imagine Rdio is included in the hold back to at least some extent notwithstanding the Pandora acquisition.  (Although it is worth noting that if you buy the record through Amazon, you can stream it right away online and through Sonos–so let’s not say she “snubbed streaming”.)

This is sometimes called “windowing” or “market segmentation” and is driving streaming boosters a bit batty.  For example, Chris Cooke writing in Complete Music Update left a skid mark with this one:

Artists should be allowed to decide where their music appears, of course [oh, of course, thank you very much, no doubt some of his best friends are artists], and bigger acts will always have that right to choose written into any record contracts. Though – from a wider record business perspective – you could argue that Adele isn’t being much of a team player with this move, because those who pay £10 every month to a streaming platform are the industry’s best customers, who have in no small part helped the sector’s revenues stop declining. So the record industry is basically saying ‘fuck you’ to its most important clientele.

That’s right–continuing the mantra of “ask not what Spotify can do for you, ask what you can do for Spotify”.  Or more precisely, what you can do for Daniel Ek’s quest for IPO riches.

But Mr. Cook omits the fact that the single “Hello” has been available on iTunes, Spotify and other streaming platforms since October 23–you know, the commercial single street date.  That’s right–all this press that has been ginned up about Adele “snubbing” streaming is all about “25”–that’s the album.  Somehow few of these stories (and I say “few” but I think if you read all of them you would find that none of them) tell you that Spotify got the single.

Not only did Spotify get the single, but according to The Atlantic, the single also:

“…broke one-day streaming records on Spotify and Vevo, and appears on track to set a benchmark in the category of one-week U.S. digital song sales. It easily beat competition from a new Justin Bieber song, smashed a record recently set by Taylor Swift, and has already been viewed on YouTube far more times than the Star Wars trailer released a week ago.

Again, having a record setting single is not “snubbing streaming”.  Wouldn’t that have been a relevant fact in the who, what, when, where, why, how business?

Let’s talk about that “not a team player” idea.  Adele’s last record–which followed a similar release pattern–was so successful that I would not be surprised if Adele and Beggars added a zero to revenue for the entire music industry.  That’s being a team player.  That happened without Spotify.  (“21” was off streaming platforms for most of its 2011 album cycle.)  Let’s hope Adele does it again.  And I for one would think that the words Mr. Cooke is looking for are “thank you.”

Credit where credit’s due, however.  Spotify so far has handled the public messaging on Adele’s release a whole lot better than they handled Taylor Swift.  My bet is that this is entirely attributable to Spotify’s newly engaged resident triangulator, Jonathan Prince.  First, no quotes from Daniel “My Shoes Are Bite Sized” Ek.  That would suggest that Mr. Prince has convinced Daniel Ek that Mr. Ek’s mouth is Mr. Ek’s own worst enemy–so Mr. Prince seems to have a muzzle firmly in place.

There’s a fair amount of press coverage about Adele’s windowing her album–with no quotes from Spotify other than the one rather mealy mouthed blog post that complains of not getting the album and fails to mention the record-setting single.  That means that someone–guess who–was working the press on background to shape the story in a way that helped Spotify without leaving breadcrumbs that would lead back to the company.  Those stories didn’t write themselves.

I leave it to you to decide if failing to mention the single being available on Spotify is just more kvetching from a company with an $8 billion valuation, or is actually duplicitously misleading press manipulation by the Triangulator.

How can you tell this message massaging is going on?  Aside from being able to smell it a mile off when you see a number of press reports that say more or less the same thing, you see a lot of spin about how Adele is disappointing her fans by keeping the record off of Spotify.  According to the dozens of fan interviews conducted on the record by music industry journalists?  According to quotes from record store clerks saying “Punters are whinging no Spotify for Adele”?

Nope.  Not one quote from an actual fan or a witness of consumer behavior supporting the proposition that hits need Spotify.  Not even an astroturfed trolling comment from a Spotify message board.  I wonder why.  Especially since all this press and speculation about consumer behavior comes on street date before consumers have had a chance to behave measurably.

zane adele
Something Else You Won’t See on Spotify

It’s a much better job of message manipulation, but it doesn’t hide the fact:  Spotify needs hits and hits don’t need Spotify.  The proposition is playing out right before your eyes.

Now if we could just get the marketing people to understand the same thing about YouTube.

One thought on “Adele Proves Again that Spotify Needs Hits but Hits Don’t Need Spotify

  1. Of course Adele and her label are entitled to do what they like with their own work, but I’m puzzled by the implication, here and in other commentaries, that Adele’s sales somehow benefit the music industry at large. They add a hefty chunk to aggregate industry sales figures, but they don’t directly help anyone except Adele herself and the other parties involved in the record: her label, her co-writers and producers, her publishers, and a few others. The record industry as a whole is not a ‘team’, so the phrase ‘team player’ makes no sense in this context. Conceivably there could be some benefit to other artists on the same label (more generous advances?), but I don’t see any direct benefit to anyone else. As for indirect effects, they could go either way. Maybe the publicity for Adele will stimulate people to buy other records just by drawing attention to the fact that records still exist! But against that there is the adverse effect of competition for a limited amount of consumers’ money, especially in the important market for Christmas gifts. Maybe I’m overlooking some subtle ‘trickle down’ effect, but on the face of it the rest of the industry has no more reason to applaud the sales of Adele than Apple Inc would have to applaud a booming year for Samsung.


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