I remember the moment I first heard Adele’s album 21. It was exactly 15 minutes after hearing “Rolling In The Deep” on Madison, WI’s adult alternative radio station, Triple M. I was passing through my home town en route to NYC to begin a massive 60 date tour supporting Ron Pope. It was March 10th, 2011. It was one of those songs that just stopped you in your tracks. Something so different from everything else on the radio at the time that I instantly fell in love. I drove straight to the nearest Target, bought the CD and popped it in my car’s CD player. Sifting through the liner notes I noticed my Minneapolis pal Dan Wilson co-wrote a couple songs. After the first full listen I tweeted him.
@ariherstand @officialAdele keep feeling it, Ari.
— Dan Wilson (@DanWilsonMusic) March 13, 2011
I can’t say I’ve called many things, but, hell, I called this. Mind you, this was long before the world knew Adele. “Rolling” was still just starting to get played on AAA radio and hadn’t cracked top 40 yet. Go me.
Fast forward to November 20th, 2015. I will not be driving to Target to buy the new Adele CD. Why? Because I don’t buy CDs anymore. The process of importing a CD into a computer (which no longer has a CD drive) and then making sure the track listing is correct, then dragging the files to my “iPhone” playlist to then transferring to my iPhone while it goes through the 17 steps of Synching, so I can just listen to the damn thing does not happen anymore. Will I download it on iTunes? Nope! Why not? Because I haven’t downloaded a single song since Spotify launched in the US and I began paying $9.99 a month for it. And I don’t have anymore space on my 64GB iPhone (seriously).
Before you chastise me for not supporting musicians, please note, that I am an indie musician supporting myself on my music. And also, I’d like to point you to my vinyl collection of about 100+ albums (all purchased within the past 2 years – when I got my turntable). Many of them new. See, thanks to Spotify, I am able to fall in love with albums that I would have normally never heard. Like Alabama Shakes Sound and Color. I first heard the title track on a Spotify playlist I subscribed to and had the similar feeling I had when I first heard “Rolling in the Deep” on Triple M. But instead of driving to Target, I listened to the album on Spotify, over and over and over and over again, at home, at the gym, in the car, everywhere, to the point that when I saw the vinyl record at Barnes and Noble I ponied up the $30 and bought it.
Had Alabama Shakes boycotted Spotify, not only would I most likely not know about this brilliant new record, but I wouldn’t have purchased the vinyl, shared the music en masse online (via Spotify), become a small part of their 50+ million plays on Spotify or pay $20 to go to their concert or buy a $20 T-shirt at the show.
That’s the thing, Spotify has enabled me to discover, fall in love and support so much more music than I ever could have before. I now make (and subscribe to) playlists of artists who I’ve never heard of, but am quickly falling in love with and will support 100x over through other avenues because they shared their music with me. Gave me access. Welcomed me into their world. They enabled me to listen to their music in a way that makes sense to me. Now. Today. In 2015. And that’s as a music fan. As an artist, it’s helped fans from around the world discover my music. A song I released a few months back got included on a UK Best New Music Monday Spotify playlist and shot my song to 30,000 plays in a week with zero promotion money behind it. The aforementioned Ron Pope has said that Spotify is the single reason why he is selling out venues around the world and thousands of fans are singing along to his music every night. And he’s an indie artist. And worldwide superstar, Ed Sheeran, echoes Ron’s sentiments.
Withholding music from streaming in 2015 is for one reason: greed. And I don’t like artists who are greedy.
We can say that the label is pulling the strings, but if Taylor Swift proved anything, it’s that at the end of the day, the artist has the control. Especially artists as huge as Adele and Swift. If Adele wanted her album on Spotify and Apple Music it would be on Spotify and Apple Music.
I know people think that by “Windowing” this album (like 21 was windowed for a year and a half) is a smart move. It’s not.
2015 is not 2011.
In 2011, Spotify had about 23 million active users (worldwide). In 2015, Spotify has 75 million active users and Apple Music has 15 million. Add in Deezer’s 6 million, Rdio, Amazon and now YouTube Music, and you have well over 100 million music lovers actively streaming music. Hell, if we just looked at YouTube, and their 1 billion active users, most turn to YouTube first to listen to music.
Music fans want to stream. They’ve experienced it. And they like it. They’re never going back to clunky file transfers, data capacity restrictions, or, gasp, plastic discs.
Sure, Adele’s opening week sales will kill. But they would have killed had she been on Spotify or not.
Taylor Swift is on Apple Music, but not Spotify. She claims it’s because Spotify’s freemium model devalues music and somehow, Apple Music’s 3 month free trial doesn’t. Hmm.
But Adele won’t be on either. How much money do you need? The extra couple hundred thousand bucks you’re going to get in first week sales is really worth the negative backlash from music lovers who have fallen in love with a new way to experience music?
Artists and labels were late to downloads too back in the early 2000s. Same arguments. Same backwards thinking. “It devalues our art!” They screamed. No, it’s just that so many labels were shitting out 10 tracks of flop with 1 single and forcing people to pay $18 for a single song that the labels (and artists) were pissed that they couldn’t get paid $18 for one good song anymore. This was the golden age of the music business? This was the LOW POINT of the music industry! Shaking down fans was not a smart, long-term business strategy.
And then suing them when they found a better way to get the songs they wanted wasn’t smart either. Remember that? The RIAA sued 35,000 music fans for illegally downloading because they thought that was the way to solve the problem. Remember how that ended? Hint: The RIAA realized they were being stupid, that the strategy was backfiring, that suing music’s biggest fans wasn’t curbing the problem and that digital was here to stay. Instead of innovating and giving the customers what they want, the labels (and many artists) told them they were wrong for wanting it and punished them for getting it.
So now, the same block heads leading the industry (or Adele’s career) are, once again, trying to force music fans to do it their way. Completely ignoring the fact that you can’t force consumers to go backwards once they’ve tasted the future.
We’re never going back to sales. There are many more ways to support music creators that makes sense to fans and artists in 2015 than simply record sales.
Just because I don’t want to purchase a plastic disc or batch of digital files doesn’t mean I don’t support music. It just means that I put my love of convenience above my love of Adele. And sadly, Adele isn’t making it very convenient to listen to her album.
But had it been on Spotify, had I listened and fallen in love, I may have gone to Amoeba Music and bought the vinyl. I may have purchased tickets to her show and bought some merch. But now, I’m done with Adele. I don’t care for greedy artists.