It wouldn’t feel right to have a new Taylor Swift album without an almighty hoo-ha around streaming, despite the star’s rapprochement with Spotify in June.
Multiple reports overnight explain that her new album ‘Reputation’ won’t be available to stream when it’s released this Friday.
Bloomberg suggested the album will be withheld for a week, while the Financial Times claimed that its non-streaming window could be up to two weeks, with both reports warning that a final decision has not yet been made, even though the release is just two days away.
(For what it’s worth, Music Ally’s sources suggest Bloomberg’s estimate may be optimistic, especially if ‘Reputation’ sales rocket during that first week.)
There doesn’t appear to be any lingering bad blood (pun not intended) between Swift and Spotify – in September she teamed up with the service to launch a playlist of her favourite songs – so this looks less like punishment and more like a strategy to maximise sales of ‘Reputation’ immediately after release.
Stay tuned for stories (around Monday, we predict) of how many copies of ‘Reputation’ are being downloaded illegally. Those will miss the point: Swift is at the level where the decision to stream or not to stream for a week or two doesn’t really matter for her long-term earnings.
That said, Ed Sheeran is at that level too, and has sold plenty of copies of his ‘Divide’ album despite having it streamable from its release day including putting every track on YouTube as an audio file.
Different strokes for different folks, then. For stars the size of Sheeran and Swift (see also: Beyoncé) decisions about streaming holdbacks are more noteworthy for the statements they make than for their impact on the artist’s income.