Why Spotify Turned Down Adele’s “21”

From Fast Company

You didn’t read that backward. Adele was willing to have her album “21” available on the streaming music service. But Spotify would have had to change its whole strategy to accommodate her.

If you were one of the millions of fans who tuned into Sunday’s Grammy Awards, you likely saw Adele belt out “Rolling In The Deep” from her chart-topping album and take home a half-dozen trophies, including prizes for Song of the Year and Album of the Year for 21. But as many quickly pointed out, you couldn’t get the songs from that Album of the Year on Spotify. It is not available for streaming there.

Such jarring absences represent a constant criticism of the popular subscription-based music service’s catalog, and it’s a big reason why some consumers resist switching over from iTunes. Critics often highlight missing content on Spotify–say, albums from acts such as the Black Keys and the Beatles–implying that many big-name artists aren’t onboard with the streaming platform, or perhaps that the 3-million-subscriber-strong service with more than 15 million songs in its catalog isn’t yet ready for prime time. But, if it’s any indication of where the industry is headed, it turns out that Adele was indeed willing to have her album 21 available on Spotify–but given the option, Spotify ultimately decided not to stream the album, according to sources. Here’s why.

Multiple sources confirm that Adele was willing to play ball with the streaming service, as long as the content was accessible only to paying subscribers and not to its freemium users. Spotify has a freemium-to-premium model: Users can gain ad-supported access to Spotify’s entire music catalog for free; to remove the ads and gain mobile access, users have to pony up as much as $10 a month. Ultimately, Spotify decided it did not want to split up its content catalog, so as to create separate music libraries for paying subscribers and freemium users. Thus, it was essentially Spotify that decided against providing streaming access to Adele’s content for paying subscribers–not the other way around.

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