Only Paying Spotify Subscribers Will Have Access to Taylor Swift’s New Album, Sources Say

photo: bernswaelz (CC0)

Want to enjoy Taylor Swift’s latest album on Spotify?  You might have to pay for the pleasure.

This morning, Bloomberg reported that Taylor Swift is withholding her latest album from Spotify for a full week.  But once the album finally arrives on Spotify, there may be some unexpected restrictions.

That’s because Swift’s latest album, reputation, may be restricted to premium subscribers only.  The move could jump-start Spotify’s eventual shift towards ‘gated content’.

According to a pair of sources with knowledge of the negotiations, Swift’s album could be placed behind a paywall for an unspecified period.  That paywall is a premium Spotify subscription, which carries a list price of $9.99 a month.

The restriction would follow the week-long absence on Spotify, in which Swift maximizes sales across downloads and CDs.  But even after Spotify has access, Swift will draw more substantial revenue from every stream.  Royalties from paying subscribers are multiples higher than ad-supported listens, according to statements received by Digital Music News.

Reputation has an official release date of November 10th.  Spotify wouldn’t offer the full album until November 17th or later, per the schedule.  Currently, Spotify is offering access to four songs from the album:  “Look What You Made Me Do,” “…Ready for It,” “Gorgeous,” and “Call It What You Want.”

Most other streaming platforms are paid-only.

That includes Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, and Rhapsody.  Those platforms are paid-only, obviating the need for additional restrictions.  Unclear is whether free trial users on these platforms will have access to the album.

The sources stressed that they have not received confirmation of the premium-only ‘gating’.  But discussions have actively surrounded the premium-only arrangement.  “[The parties are] talking about how [gated access] would work exactly,” one source said.  “On one hand you have Spotify waving their arms saying, ‘we’re not ready for that yet!’ — then the other side saying, ‘get it ready then’.”

More specifically, Spotify appears to be developing the infrastructure required to properly restrict an album to paying subscribers.  Sounds simple to the outsider, though of course, the details and execution are anything but.

Two important players could be pushing Spotify to introduce its next phase: Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Label Group, and Universal Music Group.

Borchetta is lauded as one of the industry’s most savvy operators, guiding Taylor Swift’s career with sophisticated approaches to monetization, technology, and fan management.  That includes a more skeptical approach to music streaming, particularly as monetization issues remain.  “The genie is out of the bottle and she’s not going back in,” Borchetta told the industry at Canadian Music Week earlier this year.

“So we have got to make premium subscription services work, period, the end.”

Universal Music Group recently led the charge to reorganize major label licensing contracts with Spotify.  That included stipulations that certain, marquee releases would be available to premium subscribers only.  In exchange, Spotify reportedly received lower royalty rates.

Meanwhile, Spotify is facing pressure to shut down its ad-supported, free tier.

Earlier, industry sources told Digital Music News about a broader agenda to close free.  Specifically, the streaming platform could be forced to close its free tier within 2-3 years.  That would also involve major changes for YouTube, which currently offers a low-paying, totally free experience for music fans.

Spotify, YouTube Music to End Free Streaming In 2-3 Years, Sources Say

On that note, Borchetta was sour on YouTube, expressing frustration over the video giant’s unfair treatment towards artists and copyright owners.  Indeed, Taylor’s music can be extremely difficult to reliably access on YouTube, thanks to more aggressive patrolling and takedowns.

It’s all part of a philosophy of driving greater value around music — or more accurately, demanding it.  “So streaming absolutely is the future, but let’s not forget — and you know I literally wear it on my sleeve as you see there and see right here,” Borchetta continued.   “Music has value.  I find that anything that we pay for we value more.

“So I think that everybody should be on a premium service of some sort.”

Stay tuned.

 


 

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