Spotify Makes It Clear: No More Album Exclusives

Spotify Says That Timed Album Exclusives Hurt The Music Industry
  • Save

Spotify Says That Timed Album Exclusives Hurt The Music Industry
  • Save
Spotify’s Troy Carter (left).

Yes, Spotify will limit certain albums to paying subscribers.  But they won’t be exclusive to Spotify.

To better highlight the contributions of songwriters and producers, Spotify recently introduced ‘Secret Genius.’  The global initiative would shine on a light on the contributions of people who help produce music from behind the scenes. Last week’s ‘Secret Genius’ announcement coincided with Troy Carter’s one-year anniversary as Spotify’s Global Head of Creator Services.

Yet, as Spotify moves forward with its Secret Genius initiative, the platform is moving away from another idea.  Carter now worries that timed album exclusives are harming the entire music industry.  Accordingly, Carter and Spotify are declaring truce on an expensive war for exclusive releases.

Speaking with Variety about timed exclusives, Troy Carter dismissed any notion that Spotify is working to secure plum exclusives.

“Exclusive audio content, specifically with albums, is not within our playbook.  I think people have learned over the last six months that it’s bad for the music industry, it’s not that great for artists because they can’t reach the widest possible audience, and it’s terrible for consumers.  If you wake up in the morning and your favorite artist isn’t on the service that you’re paying ten dollars a month for, sooner or later you lose faith in the subscription model.”

Troy Carter’s statement echoes how other music industry executives have felt.  After releasing Blonde, his final album with UMG, as an timed exclusive on Apple Music, Frank Ocean jumped ship.  UMG CEO Sir Lucian Grainge responded by telling executives that UMG wouldn’t release anymore timed exclusive albums.

Apple Music also appears to be abandoning the practice.  That’s a huge about-face, given that the company has been dropping millions to secure juicy exclusives.  Prior to jumping ship from UMG, Frank Ocean’s albums Endless and Blonde remained an Apple Music exclusive for several weeks.  Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book and Drake’s Views were also released as timed-exclusives for a few weeks.

Others have also been aggressive with exclusives.  Jay Z’s Tidal music streaming service followed a similar pattern with Beyonce’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.  Whether Tidal is around in a few years is another matter entirely.

Perviously, timed-exclusive albums proved a successful model for Apple, as its music service recently crossed the 27-million paid subscribers mark.  Yet, not everyone agreed with Apple Music’s timed-exclusives model.

Confirming the sentiment felt throughout the music industry, Jimmy Iovine stated that Apple Music wouldn’t aim for anymore timed exclusives.  In a recent interview with Music Business Worldwide, Iovine said,

“We tried it.  We’ll still do some stuff with the occasional artist.  The labels don’t seem to like it and ultimately it’s their content.”

For now, it appears that music streaming services have moved away from offering timed exclusives and focused more on offering other kinds of content.

Meanwhile, Apple wants to turn its Apple Music app into a one-stop shop for pop culture.  But it’s working on other methods for accomplishing that aim, including unique programming and concepts.  Having recently launched ‘Planet of the Apps,’ the Cupertino-based company will release its ‘Carpool Karaoke’ spinoff later this year.

Spotify has some tricks of its own.  Speaking on Spotify’s ‘Secret Genius’ initiative, Troy Carter told Variety,

“There is no music business without the song.  The whole idea around Secret Genius is to shine a light on these people behind the scenes who play such a big role in some of the most important moments of our lives.  When the general public hears a song they automatically associate it with the artist who sings it, not the people behind the scenes who make it happen, so we thought the title Secret Genius was appropriate.”


Top image of Troy Carter by TechCrunch (CC by 2.0)

6 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I do like it when artists and songwriters receive more money than they would’ve received otherwise, which is why I’m not completely against exclusives. I’m also against the notion that paying $10/month should somehow entitle users to be able to access every song under the sun from day one. That said, I think new releases should be format exclusive, rather than service exclusive. New albums should be windowed as digital downloads for a few weeks before being released to any streaming service. I believe labels and artists would ultimately make more money, regardless of the piracy increase.

    • not a dino

      you’re going against technology that way, music downloads are dead.
      on demand access is the present, anything other then that will fail.

      • pschase

        you say going against technology like it’s some aspect of life to be upheld at all costs – it’s not. people attract to streaming ( specifically Spotify ) when they perceive a lack of options elsewhere. for example, “on demand” access is important at the pop level, where folks are paying $10 a month to hear the same Drake song over and over, and perhaps a new release for someone in that sphere of “stardom”. But for an independent, rather than swimming in the vast sea of unheards on Spotify, they can use a scaled down version of the windowing technique and make a bit more cash for themselves up front before waiting on the percentage of a penny that streaming services offer.
        And in terms of the user – bless them, but they will go wherever the business structure guides them for the most part.

  2. Will Buckley

    The big F-you to Spotify. The arrogance and attempt to control and manipulate the music business has only contributed to the near total destruction of mid-level artists, now forced to other jobs to survive.

    Don’t be deceived by all this hoopla about money. Spotify is just another example of the consolidation of wealth that has eviscerated America’s middle class.

    And it all started with a bribe.

    What else can you call a pay off in the form of Spotify equity to the very labels Spotify so desperately needed to make this 20 year make over of Napster, complete with Sean Parker, operate legally.

    Legally? I mean playing the ask forgiveness, not permission card popularized by Youtube and so many other publicly traded companies who consistently bend the law to make money. Yes, I’m referring to the class action lawsuit initiated by David Lowery.

    The free model that Ek has so vociferously defended and the labels allowed to fester. Talk about “value-gap” is there any more extreme value-gap than free.

    I mean the balls to “grant” the artists a 2 week window for some new releases, who the f are you to make that call.

  3. DavidB

    Spotify was very keen on album exclusives – for Spotify – when it helped them squash competition from other streaming services who couldn’t afford them.
    Not so keen now the competition is from Apple and Amazon.