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Spotify spokesperson talks down artist exclusives

By | Published on Monday 22 February 2016


As Sony Entertainment chief Michael Lynton was bigging up a windowed future for the record industry last week, Spotify’s Jonathan Prince was talking down a streaming music future full of artist exclusives.

As previously reported, Lynton – who runs the division of Sony Corp that includes the conglom’s global music companies Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV Music Publishing – said at last week’s Code/Media conference that he thought we’d see more windowing in the record industry in the coming years, with music following the lead of the industry he is more closely associated with, ie Hollywood.

Though, of course, there are a number of different ways labels can stagger – or ‘window’ – the release of new albums, especially from big artists. You can go the physical/download-first, streams-later route of Adele; or the premium-platforms-first, free-services-later route advocated by Taylor Swift; or you can initially give your new tunes to just one streaming music platform for a set period of time, before rolling out across the net.

Tidal talked up artist exclusives following its relaunch as a Jay-Z-led vehicle last year, of course, while Apple also has a record of pushing for exclusivity from big name artists with new content to share, both before and since it launched the Apple Music streaming service. And it seems that, in recent months, the practice of high profile new records appearing first on one or another platform is becoming more of a norm, though at the same time, you sense both streaming services and artists are still experimenting and may conclude it’s not a strategy to employ in the long term.

Either way, Prince says Spotify isn’t keen to get into a bidding war for exclusive first dibs on new records. He told The Verge: “We’re not really in the business of paying for exclusives, because we think they’re bad for artists and they’re bad for fans. Artists want as many fans as possible to hear their music, and fans want to be able to hear whatever they’re excited about or interested in – exclusives get in the way of that for both sides”.

Not that Prince wants to start a war with those artists who have done exclusivity deals with his rivals (unlike the high street retailers, who occasionally boycotted artists who did CD exclusives with rival record sellers, especially in North America). He added: “Of course, we understand that short promotional exclusives are common and we don’t have an absolute policy against them, but we definitely think the best practice for everybody is wide release”.