Adele's new album, 25, drops tomorrow. And while her new single "Hello," is holding its #1 spot for the third week in a row and her video is gaining on half a billion views you're not going to hear the rest of the album unless you buy it. The New York Times is reporting that Apple Music, Spotify, and the rest of the streaming services won't have access to it. Moreover, Adele was personally involved in that decision. Perhaps inspired by Taylor Swift's move to window her album last year, and increase the chances of it going platinum.
Adele, joins Swift, The Black Keyes and Thom Yorke, to name a few, who have either pulled their music, or elected not to make it available for streaming to begin with. Part of it may stem from the fact that at a pathetic 0.006 and $0.0084 royalty per spin on Spotify it doesn't make economic sense, Especially in Adele's case who has waited five years between album releases.
As we've realized by writing about this over the years, musicians are great at music but very slow learners. So it's always exciting when another one puts two and two together and says no to the pyramid scheme.
But putting the blame on royalty rates alone isn't telling the whole story. At least I don't think so.
While it makes great business sense to not give away the content, it might also be part of a larger marketing strategy known as hype. Only a few years ago this movement began where we were being gifted left and right with new albums, often by artists rich enough to afford to do so. This had the consequence of tricking down economically on the middle class musician (i.e. everyone who isn't referred to a s a mogul) but it also devalued music overall. It's like taking the free sample station at the grocery store and loading it with a full buffet. If I can eat as much as I want for free, why buy it? And more importantly, how good could the buffet be if you're giving it away?
But now it seems the pendulum might be swinging the other way. Adele and her record label may very well be concerned with recouping on the investment of making her album. But the message isn't only Adele saying "my music is worth something, and it isn't a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a half of a cent." It's more an outright rejection, at least initially, of the "all of the music everywhere," mentality that is the mantra of big tech companies. It's also saying "Hit single aside, my album is meant to be heard as a whole, not chopped up with shitty radio commercials read by Spotify or Pandora "talent," who sound like they might be functionally illiterate. For those of you who choose the freebie service and hear those commercials, or for those of you like me who have ever written a spot for Pandora or Spotify only to have to choose from their talentless voice bank, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.
No doubt many fans who are starved for new music from Adele will gladly pay for it. Those numbers might not ever equal the number of freeloaders, they don't need to be. While everyone else gorges at the buffet, Adele's fans will purchase something of value. Adele's album is expected to be the highest selling of her career. If true, part of that success will easily be attributed to her not giving it away for free to begin with.
With Missy Elliot just about to drop a new video and is poised for a comeback next year (hopefully) with her first album in ten years, I hope she's taking notes. It doesn't matter the genre. Music is music and it all has value.