Notwithstanding the predictably boring and misogynist spew about Adele from Bob “Trigger Warning” Lefsetz, Adele’s “25” album sends an unmistakable message. Her recording reminds us of the one idea that streaming boosters and other Spotify apologists want you to forget. The CD configuration still makes up an average of 50% of sales, particularly for superstar releases, and in Adele’s case, CDs and digital downloads make up 100% of the album product configuration for “25,” at least for the time being.
But not 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.
Remember when Spotify board member Sean Parker said that Taylor Swift was an “anomaly” which explained how Taylor was “still able to sell downloads and she’s still able to sell [CDs] in some parts of the country” an obvious swipe at country music and flyover states. Adele will come close to and probably will shatter the previous first week benchmark of 2.4 million sales that was set in 2000, that is, before the real anomaly–piracy destroying the music business.
Early sales [of 25] are unlike anything we’ve seen in the modern era. The numbers are so extraordinary, we don’t have anything to properly benchmark them against. Digitally, 25 should sell over 1m, giving it the biggest-ever digital sales week.
By the look of it, there’s another message that will not go over well in the Spotify Booster Club–with sales like these, nobody cares about your weak streams beyond treating streaming like radio. This is not to say that Adele’s windowing strategy is for everyone, but it certainly seems to work with superstar releases. I’ve always viewed Spotify et al as a kind of after market record club operation.
Imagine if you could have given record clubs just the single.
Record clubs always were windowed to protect new releases with club holdbacks ranging from 90 days to 12 months–or in my case, as long as I could get away with. (You could also throw a spanner in the works by giving artists a full or 3/4 mechanical rate on record clubs rather than the pathetic 3/4 of 3/4 that the clubs seemed to think they were entitled to–that would usually stop at least the Columbia House operation cold.) Record clubs also had the attitude that they actually mattered to the front line operation, kind of like Spotify and YouTube do today. The truth, of course, is that they actually hurt front line sales.
Of course in order to be able to prove that streaming cannibalizes sales, you’d have to find some records that are not streaming to compare to those that are. And that’s what they don’t want you to be able to do or at least not very easily.
It’s not surprising that the tech press completely misses the importance of Adele’s windowing decision (just like they misinterpreted Taylor Swift’s decision, too). Daisy Buchanan writing the the Telegraph summed it up quite well:
Women are always being told their worth depends on their ability to please, be liked and make life easier for everyone around them. We’re expected to smile, tow the line and avoid any behaviour that might get us branded ‘outspoken’ or ‘difficult’ (a word that Jennifer Lawrence recently used to explain why she’d previously avoided demanding the same salary as her male co-stars).
Adele is giving this sexist standard a two fingered salute, and I love her for it [Yanks would call that the middle finger]….
Adele knows what she’s worth, and is doing what any smart woman should do when someone dramatically underestimates their value – walking out with her head held high and taking her business elsewhere.
She’s an inspiration to any ambitious woman. And if you still think that you deserve to enjoy her hard work for free [in ad-supported streaming]? You really can’t call yourself a fan at all.
And if our male readers wouldn’t want the women in their lives to do the same and be proud of them for it, there’s really something wrong with you.