Open Letter To Recording Artists – Don’t Tell Me How I Should Listen To Your Music

Windowing sucks, here's why... This Monday, like every Monday I was at my desk by 7am in order to update the new releases page on This is where we list all of this week's new albums so our users can enjoy some new music. In particular I was really looking forward to listening to Sam Smith's debut album, his first 2 singles were strong & I really like his soulful style. In fact I was going to award it our coveted 'album of the week' spot. But could I find it on Spotify? No, his last singles were there but no sign of the album. I turned to Twitter to check Sam's tweets as I figured if his album was out then undoubtedly he'd be promoting it. Sadly I was right, the album was out today, confirmed by Sam himself...


Of course I didn't expect Sam to be promoting the Spotify link (baby steps people) but his tweet did confirm it was released this week. I then noted that bankrupt music retailer HMV were also peddling it via Twitter, along with an exclusive remixes EP available instore. Pretty sure that drove all of 3 maybe 4 incremental sales, but I digress


So my worst fears were confirmed, Sam's album was released but not available on Spotify or any other streaming subscription services like Deezer or Rdio. What a colossal and completely misguided strategy. Here's why...

The only reason ever cited for artists withholding releases from subscription streaming services is so they can 'force' users to buy an official download of the album, or maybe a CD. The reasoning is that if you can't find it on a streaming service you will buy it for £10 or so. Yeah right. I pay £10 a month for access to 20 million songs, do you really think I'm going to pay the same again for 10 songs? No, within 3 clicks I'm going to find it on any of the thousands of sites where it's available for free & listen to it illegally. Or I'll listen to it on YouTube where the royalties are a fraction of what they are on Spotify. Either way Sam Smith, you as an artist lose.

Here's what really annoys me though. What right does any artist, label or manager have to try to force me into how I should listen to music? You should be glad I want to listen to you, I'm a fan, I'm your fan, but I choose how, where & when I listen to music. Not you. I've been a paying Spotify subscriber for 5 years. CD's are dead and downloads are heading that way too. Streaming is the future and if you're too ignorant to realise that then that's not my problem. Get educated.

Other misguided people have pointed to the fact that recently Coldplay and Beyoncé have withheld new albums from streaming services and had massive success with album sales. Well duh, big artists sell music, on all formats. It's that simple.

What's really disappointing in the case of Coldplay is that when they released Magic, the first single from the new album, they released it simultaneously on Spotify and as a download. Spotify got really behind it and promoted it really hard, we even got behind it and placed it in some huge playlists with hundreds of thousands of listeners. The results were impressive and the single has racked up over 60 million streams in just a couple of months. So how did Coldplay thank Spotify? By withholding the album of course. Talk about a kick in the teeth. What's really frustrating about this whole ludicrous strategy of withholding music from streaming services to increase sales is that there is not one shred of evidence to support it. Nothing. It stems purely from ignorance and fear from artists and managers who haven't moved on and embraced the new music economy. 

Streaming Music Isn't Going Anywhere

All of the data tells us that physical sales and digital downloads are in decline and subscription streaming is on the rise. Spotify just announced 40m global active users and 10m paying subscribers. This is huge. Avicii's "Wake Me Up" is the most streamed song on Spotify with over 240m streams. If you use Spotify's published royalty rate of $0.007 per stream for some back-of-a-beermat maths that works out at almost $1.7m in royalties FOR ONE SONG. In fact, in some parts of Europe, Spotify already generates more revenue that iTunes.

Let's Talk About Playlists

Playlists are integral to streaming music and are fast becoming the established new industry format. As this graph from Microsoft shows, playlists are already starting to overtake search queries rather than albums.

However, if your music isn't on Spotify then it's not going to be shared in playlists and you lose out on another free discovery mechanic. Playlists can really help a song spread virally and some playlists are incredibly popular, generating tens of millions of streams per month. Again, why would you want to miss this opportunity for the world to hear your music in a legal way? Playlists are the new radio.

Bottom Line

If you're music isn't on Spotify I won't hear it. Frankly I can't even be bothered to download it illegally. I'll just forget about you and move onto another artist who makes their music available where I want to listen to it.


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