Make no mistake, this was a decision the band made with its eyes open. In an interview with VH1, the Black Keys not only confirmed their decision to limit licensing for on-demand streaming services like Spotify, but they also explained the move in concrete financial terms. “We decided for this album, to not allow streaming services to stream the entire album,” Keys drummer Patrick Carney said. “It’s becoming more popular, but it still isn’t at a point where you can replace royalties from record sales with royalties from streams. So it felt unfair to those that purchased the album to allow people to go on a website and stream the album for free whenever they want it.”
Taking it a step further, Carney further explained that Spotify and similar streaming services make little sense for established, revenue-generating bands. “For unknown bands and smaller bands, it’s a really good thing to get yourself out there. But for a band that makes a living selling music, it’s not at a point yet to be feasible for us,” Carney noted.
Carney further pointed to a payout structure that unfairly favors labels, to the detriment of artists. “There’s a lot of stuff about some of these services that people don’t really know. It’s set up to be little more fair for the labels than it is for the artists, and that’s why we made that decision.”
“That said, we do allow the ‘Lonely Boy’ song to be streamed. We have to walk that fine line of how to do it without losing mystique and without putting yourself out there so much that fans expect everything to be free.”
The licensing limitation was first reported by Digital Music News on December 6th, the release date for the Keys album, El Camino. Confidential sources initially pointed to the decision to withhold, a move eventually confirmed by Rdio, MOG, Spotify, and ultimately, the band itself. The complete interview follows.