Updated: Coldplay Joins Adele by Boycotting Spotify

Updated: Sunday, 9 pm PT: Coldplay may allow their content on Spotify later this week, according to one industry report, based on either a complete about-face by the band or a decision to short-window the release to maximize week one sales outside of Spotify.  More as that develops; the original report from Friday follows…

Two of the biggest albums of the year are unavailable on Spotify, thanks to another huge holdout.  According to details emerging this morning, Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams will not be available on Spotify, based on concerns over free access.  In an early-morning report, the Wall Street Journal noted that Coldplay was only withholding from Spotify because of their free-access tier, and more importantly, the company’s continued refusal to limit certain albums to premium subscribers.

Accordingly, A Head Full of Dreams is available on Apple Music, a platform that forces users to pay after a three-month, free trial window.  The same is true for rival platform Tidal, which now boasts a million paying subscribers (Apple Music has 6.5 million at last count).

Physical formats, including CDs and vinyl, will also be available, just like Adele.

Coldplay’s concerns are similar to Adele’s, though Adele dismissed streaming entirely based on sub-standard royalties and potentially other concerns related to royalty payments.  Coldplay, on the other hand, is willing to stream, as long as consumers are paying.  That raises some questions on why Spotify is so stubbornly supportive of free streaming: beyond the current mega-holdouts, Taylor Swift has also refused to licensed Spotify, based on an inability to restrict her album to paying, premium subscribers.

So far, Spotify has been cocky and smug, especially as its userbase approaches 100 million.  In the wake of Taylor Swift’s highly-publicized holdouts, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek boasted that subscriber levels actually increased, based on all the publicity and awareness generated.  In fact, Spotify can thank Taylor for one of their biggest subscriber gains ever.

But that was before Adele and Coldplay stated party-pooping, and the question now is whether multiple, gaping catalog holes will ultimately damage Spotify.  Adele is a Category 5 cultural phenomenon, and Coldplay will also be commanding a strong spotlight in the coming months.  A Head Full of Dreams, officially released December 4th,  closely follows a confirmed performance during the upcoming Super Bowl 50, a slot that ensures monstrous levels of attention through the early months of 2016.

More as this develops.

33 Responses

  1. john

    no mention of chris martin being a stakeholder in Tidal in this entire article?

      • Me

        Apple Music is free for the first 3 months. Also, Apple Music is probably a bigger threat to iTunes downloads than Spotify ever was.

    • cat

      Why are my Spotify streams tanking big time. I think Apple is crushing Spotify.

      Then again, Spotify paid subscribers are not growing.

  2. Crunchy

    This is not news, Coldplay has always done the same thing with Spotify for their new albums.

  3. Me2

    If artists don’t want to be on a free tier, they will go to the paid only services.
    Right now Tidal and Apple Music are where it’s at.

  4. Anonymous

    That album cover is the most interesting thing Coldplay have ever released.

  5. GGG

    I don’t understand why Spotify doesn’t at least test out the premium-tier access only strategy. So dumb.

    • former music biz

      GGG – Most folks in the music biz are arrogant, and unwilling to try something if it goes against their opinion. They’d rather fail miserably in a dumpster fire, than admit mistake and change their course.

    • Anonymous

      Likely because it just opens a can of worms where everyone will demand premium tier only, leaving the free tier as valueless in the long run.

      The reality is that the vast majority (well over half) of Spotify’s premium subs were freemium conversions.

      • GGG

        A lot would, but I don’t think everyone would. I doubt the majors would even make all their artists tiered because they obviously want freemium users, too. So the vast majority of the most played tracks would probably not be premium only.

        Plus, many indie artists would not want to hide behind a paywall, or just do it as windowing basically, so for release week or so.

    • Me2

      From Spotify’s website:

      “A key part of this has been in ensuring that Spotify has a free tier. By offering this free tier, Spotify is able to compete with piracy on cost and bring music consumers into the legal framework. From there, Spotify does a very effective job at converting those users into Premium subscribers.”

      You know what else might convert users into Premium subscribers? Premium content. Just a thought.

      If Spotify had stood against piracy, rather than “competing on cost”, ie zero, then they might be in a better position today as a front line service. Instead they are staring down the slope of becoming an after-market clearing house.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe that was fine in the beginning, but not anymore. Spotify needs to keep up- to adapt to what is changing. Ek’s business mentality was born during the era when artists were afraid to be Lars’d and were easily cowered by the tech industry. Those days are obviously long gone, and they’re gone forever.

    • so

      Lose-lose situation for them. If you allow only superstar albums to window (premium side only) other artists will protest. If you open it to everyone, the vast majority of artists/labels will make the move and the free side will absolutely suck.

      • GGG

        Basically repeating what I said above (if the comment shows up), but I really think people are overestimating major labels’ desire to have a premium-only play tier for all their artists. Most artists cannot tell a label what to do, so while it would make sense for TS/Adele/etc to have a premium wall up, it probably wouldn’t benefit the labels or the artists below superstar level to have that.

    • Name2

      Fact is, there SHOULD be a free service out there – ad-supported or whatever. There’s room in the marketplace for it. And FWIW, Spotify wants to continue to pursue the strategy of being the brand and association and app and metric shit-ton of social interaction and playlists on everybody’s lips when they decide to convert to paying customers.

      As for the industry, Free == piracy safety valve. You don’t like the small payments? Take your ball. Go home. Kill free, and you have to go back to a $9.99 entry point to check out an album. Good luck with that. Or, you know, you could dole out millions in payola and hope that someone is listening at the right time and in the right mood and all the other things that have to line up in order to turn radio into positive cash flow.

    • Alan

      How do you know they haven’t tested it?

      Internet firms test things all the time, Google famoulsy has hundreds of test out at a time.

      It wouldn’t be so hard to take a few thousand Spotify users at random and restrict new releases to premium and then see if they upgrade or not.

  6. Anonymous

    This headline is completely nonfactual.

    Both Adele and Coldplay aren’t boycotting Spotify, that would mean they’ve ripped their catalogs off of the service. In reality, they’re embracing windowing….while happily accepting all steaming revenues from their catalog via Spotify with open arms.

    • Name2

      Welcome to DMN, where the headlines are sophomoric snark, out and out lies, or clickbait.

      Fact-checking can grow to be a full-time job here, so thanks for the clarity.

    • DavidB

      We should differentiate the following cases:

      a) Adele: latest album not on any streaming service, but previous catalog on all services after a long window period (about a year in the case of her last album).

      b) Coldplay: latest album available immediately on Apple Music (and presumably other paid services) but not free services. Previous catalog still available on Spotify, but we don’t know if this is by choice or contractual obligation.

      c) Taylor Swift: latest album available on Apple and other paid services after about 8 months. Unclear whether there would have been a ‘window’ for Apple if Apple had already existed. (Was it on Tidal?) Not yet available on Spotify, and unlikely to be released to any free service at any time if Taylor sticks to her public statements of opposition to free. Previous catalog removed from Spotify.

  7. DavidB

    “Kill free, and you have to go back to a $9.99 entry point to check out an album”

    Er, no. If you subscribe to a paid service you can check out as many albums as you like for that amount, so the price per album is not $9.99. Or – here’s a really radical idea – you could listen to the 30-second-per-track samples on iTunes or Amazon, which gives you a pretty good idea of the style and quality of the album.

    I agree that it would be nice to have a free (ad-supported) option to listen to an album once or twice, but Spotify is not offering that. Why not?

    “Fact is, there SHOULD be a free service out there – ad-supported or whatever. There’s room in the marketplace for it.”

    I think you are a bit confused about the term ‘marketplace’. A marketplace is where people buy things, not where they get them for free. That is called a soup-kitchen.

    • No, You're Confused

      You obviously don’t know what a “marketplace”is. It is NOT defined solely by people only buying things.

      Yesterday, I got a free drink and a yogurt to sample at my local super MARKET, eh?

      Where have you been?

      • Faza (TCM)

        You might wish to consider the meaning of the word “sample”… Jus’ sayin’.

      • DavidB

        No, you’re the idiot. I do know what the word ‘marketplace’ means, and I have a dictionary (Oxford) which gives the primary meaning of ‘market’ as ‘gathering of people for purchase and sale of provisions’. The word is derived from the Latin ‘mercor’, meaning ‘to buy’. People may do other things in a marketplace, such as begging or juggling, but it is not the primary purpose of the institution.

        • Anonymous

          Never argue with a pirate. Life is short and it’s time you’ll never get back.

          • Verified

            A pirate’s life for me! Surviving on samples and supplies from the washrooms.
            Some juggle, a few very well.
            Funny thing is, the t-shirts never sell.

        • Name2

          No, you’re the idiot. I do know what the word ‘marketplace’ means, and I have a dictionary (

          Not a DICTIONARY?! Oooh, NOW we’re in for it.

      • No, You're STILL Confused

        Hmmmmm, who’s the idiot? A couple of things.

        1. a) Broadcast radio? Do people “buy” broadcast radio?

        No. They don’t. EVER. It is entirely ad-supported. It’s an ad supported market.

        a) Broadcast television? Do people “buy” broadcast television?

        No. They don’t. EVER. It is entirely ad-supported. It’s an entirely ad supported market.

        You really think people can’t refer to these, and many other, businesses as “markets” – simply because they are driven by advertising and not actual “purchases”???

        If so, you are truly a MASSIVE idiot.

        2) I’ll just leave this here:

        “People may do other things in a marketplace, such as begging or juggling, but it is not the primary purpose of the institution.”


    • Anonymous

      Interestingly, I have noticed that Spotify pays a royalty based on a minimum stream (play) of 30 seconds or more in duration by an user which begs the question: Does a 30 second stream (play) trigger a royalty payout and, if so, is that an industry standard?


      However, I am uncertain whether or not Apple (iTunes) and Amazon pay a royalty for the 30 second streams (plays) it offers to potential customers of digital downloads. I do however believe that Apple (iTunes) and Amazon charge a 30 percent commission for each and every sale of a digital download whether such be the sale of a single or an album.

      If a 30 second stream (play) is an industry standard in that a 30 second stream (play) triggers a royalty payment, the question that begs to be asked is: Does Apple (iTunes) and Amazon pay royalties for those 30 second streams (plays)?

      As noted by “No, You’re Confused” that “a free drink and a yogurt to sample at [the] local super MARKET” had been obtained, it is of importance to further note that though that may be true in that the sample was free to a potential customer, surely, the sample was not free to the vendor seeking to realize a potential sale and thereby a profit from the consumer. It was simply the risk and cost of doing business for the vendor providing the “free drink and a yogurt” sample, whether or not a sale was realized by offering a potential customer the sample for free.

      It goes without saying, but I do, that Apple (iTunes) and Amazon must offer a significant number of these so-called “free samples” before a sale of either a digital single or album materializes in order to realize a 30 percent commission, but at whose expense?

      The above scenario smacks of the client acquisition costs situation that arose when Apple attempted to offer a three-month free trial period for Apple Music without paying royalties for the streams (plays) during the three-month free trial period. Is there a difference in principle between paying royalties for the purpose of selling a $9.99 digital album and a $9.99 monthly music service subscription?

      As Apple has repeatedly expressed its adversity to free regarding digital music consumption, perhaps Apple will be willing to “put its money where its mouth is” regarding the so-called “free” 30 second streams (plays)?

      One more thought in passing. I wonder if those 30 second streams (plays), or otherwise streams (plays) during the Apple Music three-month “free” trial are counted with regard to an artist’s popularity for example, but the answer to that question may never be known as I believe that those numbers, in either scenario, are not released by Apple Music as made evident by the “Drake – Hotline Bling” exclusive.

    • Name2

      Or – here’s a really radical idea – you could listen to the 30-second-per-track samples on iTunes or Amazon, which gives you a pretty good idea of the style and quality of the album.

      You’re funny.

  8. Rick Shaw

    Coldplay is boycotting something? This must be serious as they never do that.

    • Name2

      First Gwyneth Paltrow, now this.

      Clearly, the terrorists have won.