Spotify will make some music only available to paying premium-tier users
Streaming giant Spotify has maintained a solid lead over competition partially through its ‘freemium’ tier- users who pay nothing can still use the service with occasional audio advertisements, while paid premium-tier subscribers enjoy an ad-free experience. In an abrupt change of announced policy announced in The Wall Street Journal, however, not all music will be available to the freemium tier in the future.
The reevaluation was sparked by recent actions of two of the most commercially influential artists this decade- Taylor Swift and Adele. In 2015, Swift made headlines by yanking her catalogue from Spotify, explaining her rationale in an editorial. Music should not be available for free, declared Swift, and Spotify’s freemium tier has cheapened the value that society puts on music. The symbolic move jumpstarted conversations, but didn’t result in much tangible change. The impetus to evolve came with the release of Adele’s smash-hit 25 less than a month ago, which the R&B songstress embargoed from streaming services and in doing so sold 3.5 million copies in its first week, breaking a 15-year record. The staggering numbers give some strong physical evidence that streaming services hurt album sales.
Spotify revealed in private talks that in the future, some artists will be permitted to release albums to premium users only, while others will temporarily withhold their music from the freemium tier. Artists and record labels are no doubt ecstatic – in addition to increased royalty payments, the industry giant’s change may prompt a domino-effect to its smaller competitors. Spotify currently has 20 million subscribers who pay about $10 monthly, and 80 million freemium users. Those numbers may very well shift when the service implements changes, but there are some potential unintended consequences as well — Spotify may find itself in a different kind of trouble if it offers some artists special treatment over others.