This is now threatening to become an ingrained release strategy for chart-topping superstars.
And the latest superstar holdout on Spotify is Rihanna, who has opted to keep her latest album, Unapologetic, off the streaming platform – at least during the critical initial release window.
That closely follows a high-profile holdout from Taylor Swift, whose Red remains unavailable on Spotify (and most other streaming services). And just like Swift, Rihanna is the proud owner of a number one, chart-topping album, both in the US and other countries.
In other words, these are among the biggest-selling, highest-profile artists on the map today. See the emerging issue here?
Unapologetic was released ahead of Thankgiving, and more importantly, just ahead of the crushing Black Friday consumer blitz. That featured a snarl of traffic to big box outlets, which introduces lucrative opportunities around the crusty ol’ CD. And if you want it online, you’re being asked to pay a premium: currently, the singer is offering one song to Spotify, ‘Diamonds,’ while feeding a full-blown, deluxe version to iTunes.
This appears to be happening across all of Spotify’s global territories, including Rihanna’s home turf of the US. We’re awaiting confirmation on those details, as well as confirmation that the holdout applies to competing streaming services. Ahead of those confirmations, this appears to be part of a dangerous release strategy, at least from the perspective of Spotify and its emerging rivals.
So what happens next? Ultimately, players like Spotify seem to be getting sloppy seconds, but only after the bulk of upfront revenues have been realized by the artist, management firm, and/or publisher and label. And it’s a strategy that seems to be working quite well, at least for heavily-promoted, pop-focused, superstar releases.
Spotify has not yet responded to a Tuesday morning inquiry from Digital Music News.