Spotify’s policy on restricting albums to its premium users only has been clear in recent years: it won’t allow it.
The no-windowing policy was at the heart of the streaming service’s dispute with Taylor Swift; and its resolve has been tested by artists including Beyoncé, Adele and Coldplay, as the idea of making big albums only available for subscribers gained currency.
Yet until now, the idea has always been swatted down by Spotify both privately and in public statements. This may be changing, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“In private talks, Spotify has told music executives that it is planning to allow some artists to start releasing albums only to its 20 million-plus subscribers, who pay $10 a month, while withholding the music temporarily from Spotify’s 80 million free users,” claimed the newspaper, suggesting that the change in approach is being described as “a test” rather than a permanent policy change.
The report goes on to claim that Coldplay would have been the first guinea pig for the tests but “the group’s management couldn’t guarantee that it could keep the album off of other free sites such as YouTube during the time it wasn’t available on Spotify Free”.
In an official statement provided to Music Ally, Spotify confirmed the discussions with Coldplay, while reiterating its belief in its existing way of doing things.
“We are 100% committed to our model because we believe that a free, ad-supported tier combined with a more robust premium tier is the best way to deliver music to fans, create value for artists and songwriters, and grow the industry,” said the spokesperson.
“In that context, we explored a wide range of promotional options for the new Coldplay album and ultimately decided, together with management, that Coldplay and its fans would best be served with the full album on both free and premium this Friday.”
If the no-windowing policy comes tumbling down, would it be a disaster for Spotify? While a number of big artists would undoubtedly seek to take advantage, it’s hard to see a mass desertion of the free tier.
More positively, though, 2016 may be the time to actually get some first-hand data on whether premium windowing has an effect on subscription signups.
Spotify may have stuck to its belief in no windowing, but such a data-driven company will on some level appreciate the chance to test whether those beliefs are supported by real user behaviour in the coming months.