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British pop sensation Adele has decided to follow in Taylor Swift’s footsteps Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify In the past week Taylor Swift has pulled her music from Spotify, inspired countless song-pun laden headlines and reignited the debate about streaming music services. Read More and stop you from listening to her latest album 25 on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

While T-Swizzle eventually let Apple Music Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know After the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world. Read More and Tidal have 1989after a misguided public letter Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Apple Music Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Apple Music Taylor Swift recently persuaded Apple to pay artists for songs streamed during free trials of Apple Music. But she's wrong. Again. Read More — Spotify was never forgiven. And by the looks of things, Adele won’t be playing ball with any of the various streaming services currently vying for market share.

While this makes some sense in the short term, it’s still a pretty boneheaded thing to do. While music streaming is under a lot of fire from the record industry, it is the direction things are going, and there is no point in trying to stop progress. In fact, given how popular services like Spotify and Apple Music are, they aren’t just the future, they’re the present as well.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at why Adele is wrong to keep her new album 25 off of streaming services.

It Makes Short Term Sense

It’s worth noting that while Adele is in the wrong here, she’s arguably less wrong than Taylor Swift. While both share the same reasons for keeping their music off of streaming services, Swift felt the need to make a lot of silly statements about Spotify in the process. In contrast, Adele has had the good sense to keep quiet… so far.


Tyler Goldman, the CEO of one of the bit players in the streaming space, Deezer, told Reuters, “[Adele’s] using this as an opportunity to try and sell more CDs or downloads.” An obvious statement, perhaps, but one which demands a closer look.

Like Swift before her, Adele is in a position to have a monster album launch. 1989 was the best selling album of 2014 and 25could take that crown this year. According to Reuters, Adele’s latest album is projected to sell at least a million units in its first week — and those are huge numbers. However, even with this short term logic, it’s a bad idea overall.

Spotify Isn’t Killing the Music Industry

Spotify and other music services create a lot of hysteria. Jay Z went so far as to launch his own streaming service, Tidal Why Jay Z's Tidal Music Streaming Service is Doomed to Fail Why Jay Z's Tidal Music Streaming Service is Doomed to Fail Jay Z recently relaunched Tidal, the music streaming service he acquired for $56 million. Tidal has 99 problems, and the pitch is one. Read More — in an ironically tone deaf ceremony — just to compete with Spotify.

Plenty of artists complain about small royalty payments from Spotify, but as I’ve explained before, they make two fundamental errors:

  • The money they receive is after their record company takes a (huge) cut. Spotify pays out between 0.5 cent and 0.8 cent a play. Yes that’s a small amount but it adds up. If artists only see a fraction of that, their record company is the problem. They see a similar fraction of the royalties from CD sales.
  • Music streaming is a long term game. If I buy a track on iTunes today for 99 cents, the record company gets 70 cents tomorrow. If I stream that track anything more than, at most, 140 times over the rest of my life they get more money from me. It’s just spread out over a longer period of time.


This is being supported by research into the effect of streaming services. A paper from the Nation Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that:

Spotify use displaces permanent downloads. In particular, 137 Spotify streams appear to reduce track sales by 1 unit. Given the current industry’s revenue from track sales ($0.82 per sale) and the average payment received per stream ($0.007 per stream), our sales displacement estimates show that the losses from displaced sales are roughly outweighed by the gains in streaming revenue. In other words, our analysis shows that interactive streaming appears to be revenue-neutral for the recorded music industry.

So, regardless of the scaremongering and hand-wringing, the music industry looks to be doing just fine, thank you very much.

Spotify Is Killing Piracy

One thing that Spotify is killing though, is piracy. The NBER paper also found that:

Consistent with the existing literature, our analysis also shows that Spotify displaces music piracy.

I have written about this before 4 Reasons You Don't Need to Be a Pirate Anymore 4 Reasons You Don't Need to Be a Pirate Anymore While some people are always going to pirate, for most, there is now less reason than ever to do so. Read More and gone into detail on why my generation are unwilling to buy things but are prepared to pay for streaming services The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation Read More . It’s not clever, it’s not pretty, but if something we want to listen to isn’t available on Spotify, we’re far more likely to simply torrent it instead. That’s just how it is.

And in the case of 25, it’s possible to do that before it’s even been officially released. Because, as anyone with half a brain could have predicted, 25 is now available on all the popular torrent sites.

By keeping 25 off of streaming sites, Adele is cutting off her revenue stream from people who would happily stream, might torrent, but will never buy. Essentially, she’s cutting her nose off to spite her face.

Lifting the Needle

There are also other lesser reasons why Adele is wrong here.

There are people who listen to an album on Spotify and then buy those that they really love and want to keep forever. Adele has taken that option away from them, essentially demanding that they buy 25 blind, without sampling it first.

Streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have the capacity to pay out for many years to come, but if someone buys this album then Adele is cutting off that revenue stream forever. And if she releases her album on Spotify in a few months it will come across as cynical and gouging. Because that’s exactly what it is.

The truth is that neither Adele nor streaming services are really going to be harmed by all of this…

25 is going to be a massively successful record. Despite Taylor Swift’s ire, Spotify will continue to grow because streaming services are the future. And the record industry’s attempts to cling to the past are doomed to fail in the long term. However, right here, right now there is a short term sense to what they’re doing even if it is very annoying for fans like you and I.

What Do You Think of Adele’s Decision?

What do you think of Adele’s decision to keep 25 off of streaming services? Are you going to buy Adele’s new album? Would you have liked the option of streaming it first? Will the lack of streaming make you more likely to download it illegally?

Please let us know in the comments section below!

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  1. Mr Fantastico
    February 3, 2016 at 8:32 am

    You're so wrong with your assertions here, it's painful to read.

    You make the claim that the record companies are taking a huge cut out of what Spotify is paying per stream. This is the most boneheaded, clueless statement I've seen in some time. Why? Because Spotify is in bed with the music industry. Daniel Ek, with the help of Shaun Parker, went to every single record company and brokered a deal in order to obtain the rights to stream their property. The cut that they are receiving was agreed upon right from the beginning. The record companies have invested a lot of money in Spotify; so much so that it's really difficult to see where the music industry ends and Spotify begins. They're practically partners.

    And, because of these deals, those cuts are not going to change, and musicians will continue to lose out. It's that simple. Spotify sucks and needs to die.

    So, rock on Taylor Swift. Good for you Adele. And Tool, I wish I could buy your music on iTunes, but at least the boneheads at Spotify aren't getting rich through your blood, sweat and tears.

  2. Colonel Angus
    November 23, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    *meh* I'm not the demographic so I don't really care one way or the other. In the end it's entirely her choice to make, but I also wonder if her opinion has been influenced by others. It seems a bit short-sighted to me. Logic says you get your music out there in front of as many people as possible.

  3. Mr. Loves Spotify
    November 23, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Good, we don't need crap like Taylor Swift and Adele on services like Spotify. I could see it on Apple's garbage, but Spotify is too good for them.

  4. Christian Cawley
    November 23, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Who does Adele want to listen to her records? Does she want them to be half enjoyed, listened to in passing as people browse through playlists? She's in the game of literally selling her soul, not in a devlish sense, but in a creative sense, so perhaps Adele prefers the idea of people spending real money on her albums (preferably physical, perhaps) and engaging with the material.

    Because, quite frankly, it's impossible to fully engage with a typical Spotify playlist. The way we consume music has changed - we consume it now, rather than embrace and enjoy it, and then move on.

  5. Ron Lane
    November 22, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Buying a CD or any other medium has begun to feel like a waste. I have purchased quite a lot of music in the past 45 years, but now I subscribe to Tidal or some other music service because it just makes sense for me...almost any song any or offline. Talk about branching out my music consumption, I get to listen to music I would have never considered paying album price to get.

    Another thing is with radio you hear so much of the same song frequently, and the advertisements are maddening. With streaming music you wouldn't ever have to hear the same song twice (metaphorically speaking of course).

  6. EL
    November 22, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Spotify isn't killing piracy. It might be making it worse since I know people that obtain premium accounts illegaly and same people use spotify as a simple discovery tool.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 22, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      I'm gonna defer to the academic researchers on this one.

  7. John Arl
    November 21, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Adelle can go to heck. There is so much content on Spotify that I am happy to pay for Premium. My 12 year old asked for Spotify and I got it for $5 per month. Surprisingly it broadened her interest in classic rock, some country, 50's, even some 30's. Now we are going to stores looking for vinyls and old disks plus picking up current disks for our 100 disk carrier in a smart house. She is becoming a DJ rearanging, pruning and planting new disks. Adelle would have to earn her spot in the mix. I'll never know her, thus never buy a ticket for a concert and I am an avid concert goer. In fact, I think life boils down to a few great concerts. Tayylor has become some sort of an idiot savant. I've seen her where she couldn't carry a tune for a commercial endorsement for some company. I've enjoyed some and would buy a ticket to see her but without a way to see where she is currently, I would fear that my $ could be wasted. As much as I love Vince Gill, I felt robbed when attending a Christmas show with his wife. It wasn't mentioned that he would be a background singer with an accoustic guitar that was used mostly used as a rythym background. We are consumers but use current social media for more than Taylor's rants.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 22, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      Exactly. If you had access to Adele you might well listen but you're never going to actively buy anything she produces. I'm in the same boat. Spotify I adore and use daily.

  8. steveb
    November 21, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Sorry, but who cares ?

    It's her choice and it's only her money at risk.

    • Dave Parrack
      November 21, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      It's her choice, of course, but it doesn't just affect her, but her legion of fans who would like to be able to listen to the album on Spotify or Apple Music.

      • steveb
        November 21, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        A good test of their 'fanship' then - they can always do the old fashioned thing and buy the stuff directly.

      • fcd76218
        November 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm

        "her legion of fans who would like to be able to listen to the album on Spotify or Apple Music."
        And I would like to live like a billionaire.

        At this point you have to ask yourself if you like Adele's music enough to put up with her decisions. Like Harry writes she is cutting off her nose to spite her face but it is HER nose and HER face. If she wants to give up a part of her income stream, why do you care? Taylor Swift made a similar decision and it doesn't look like she it made a difference to her bank account. I don't see her standing on a corner, hoping somebody will drop some coins into her tin cup.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 21, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      Just because it's someone's choice, it doesn't mean we can't analyse whether it's a good choice or a bad choice. It's your choice if you want to spend all your money on hookers and coke. I might think that's a good choice and others will think it's a bad choice! This one's just more interesting because it effects a large tech company we're a fan of.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 21, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      Also there's a big line between the kind of fan who will buy her CD and the fan like me who would casually put it on as background music if I had access to it, but otherwise won't.

      • fcd76218
        November 22, 2015 at 12:17 am

        You do have a fixation with hookers and coke.

        • Harry Guinness
          November 22, 2015 at 12:36 am

          There's worse things to be fixated on!

  9. Alutiiq
    November 21, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I don't have a problem with her decision. Personally I don't care for streaming music services. When I want to hear Adel or Taylor Swift or anyone else for that matter I will but the album or song I want and listen to it. I'm not interested in listening to Adel and 50 other similar artists when I want to hear Adel. If I want streaming I have a radio and it's free.

    • Dave Parrack
      November 21, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      Radio is fine as long as you don't mind not being able to choose which song to listen to.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      I personally can't stand the radio. It might be free but it's god awful. Lots of ads, bad presenters and the same 20 songs on repeat. I'll pass.

  10. David
    November 21, 2015 at 4:55 am

    well, I think the artists are just like actors in hollywood: they may have skills but they don't have brains.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 21, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      Some of the most intelligent people I've ever met have been actors. Some of the least, internet commenters.

  11. Marc
    November 20, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    I always shake my head when I read about artists withholding their music from the various streaming services. The artists don't really owe the public any explanation for their decision, and I think all the griping about it is misguided. How is it any different than a company deciding which stores they want to sell their products in?

    I always look at Josh Ritter as the gold standard for "how things should be" in the music industry: he makes an album and then goes out on tour. If you buy a ticket to the show, he gives away his new album FOR FREE as a thank you. As a fan, I bought the CD anyway, and will probably buy a t-shirt at the show. His money is truly made from the tour and the merch, and anything he gets from the sale or streaming of the album is gravy.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 21, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      Artists don't owe the public a thing, but that doesn't make their decisions immune from criticism. As I said above, if people want to do coke and hookers that's their choice but it's open for criticism. Amazon won't stock the Apple TV, that's another decision we've been critical of.

  12. John
    November 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    You are wrong on one account. You can most definitely sample the album. Also, you can blame record companies, but for now, there isn't much artists can do. Ari Gold showed us the power of agents. Spotify should pay artist like Adele and Swift at a much higher rate. Both are going to profit from this type of relationship.

    • Dave Parrack
      November 21, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      I guess by sampling the album you mean on iTunes or Amazon? They're short snippets, and that's very different than being able to listen to the whole thing through several times before making a financial commitment.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 21, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      While I disagree with Dave that people are entitled to sample an album before making a financial commitment, it is something a lot of people like to do. Also, Spotify pays artists like Adele and Swift at it's highest rate of which they rake in a killing. I ran some numbers and reckon Spotify has paid Adele well over 8 million dollars.