The recent pull of Taylor Swifts “1989” from Spotify has got everybody talking. A recent post from Music Industry Blog, “Windowing, Shake It Off,” goes into a little more depth about windowing, Taylor Swift’s pull from Spotify, and what this all means for the future of music streaming.
If you don’t know what “windowing” is, a simple explanation is this: having a product available for a certain period of time through a specific medium for a price, and then taking that product away from said medium and making it available elsewhere. A great example of windowing is the movie and film industry. A movie is first released in theaters for the lovely price of $10+ per viewing. It is then later available to rent—sometimes this coincides with it being available in *cheap* theaters as well—and lastly the film becomes available for purchase. If you’re an avid movie goer or watcher, you might be spending a lot of money for the same product, just at different times. This might be a move the music industry is making, based on Taylor Swift’s latest move.
The article mentioned above mentions that Taylor’s pull from Spotify is a temporary one, in order to collect money from a more lucrative revenue stream: digital downloads. And it worked! The author suggests that other artists watching Taylor will probably make similar moves around the time of their future album releases. When reading this, I definitely agreed with what the author said. However, it made me think back to other instances in the industry where artists had made a major move and copycats ensued. For example, when Radiohead offered their album for free or when Nine Inch Nails offered the “pay what you want” method. These strategies worked really well for these particular bands, but it wasn’t necessarily something that popularized within the industry for other artists or for the fans. While it was initially a tempting offer and a new, cool idea, once it had been done, fans realized they could just get the music for free and were less apt to pay anything, therefore defeating the purpose, in a way. It wasn’t going to make sense monetarily in the long haul for any of said artists. So will the same thing happen with windowing? Will consumers realize what’s happening and refuse to participate?
I think that consumers won’t realize what’s happening at first. For those of us in the know and keeping up with what’s going on in the industry, it’s fairly obvious what’s happening here, but for the average consumer, it may not be so obvious.
A few questions that crossed my mind: 1) will this push consumers to go back to purchasing music if the music is only accessible through streaming for a small window of time? 2) will this push consumers to purchase the paid subscriptions? 3) what will a paid subscription include? 4) what will tiers of payments look like for music streaming services? 5) will there still be ads for the minimum payment of streaming services? 6) how long will artists allow their catalogs to be available on streaming services? 7) will this ever work with the growing number of streaming services?
Of course, as the hopeful music industry professional that I am, I can only hope that such a model would push consumers to purchase music rather than stream, but it would be naive to think that streaming isn’t here to stay. Streaming is here for the long haul, and we’ll have to see how it pans out with the future of “windowing.”
The final point the author made was to forewarn artists about the free services such as YouTube and how they are more of a potential threat than Spotify ever will be. Of course, I think we will continue to turn a blind eye because of the video content YouTube allows us to provide for our fans. Also, as we all know, people are compensated for YouTube through the placement of ads and what not, so it’s not as though there is no revenue coming in from the service. What we have to worry about is the scary number of people who upload albums in entirety and get hundreds of thousands of views while the artist gets no compensation for those plays—at least that’s what the author suggests.
After reading that particular comment, I had to think long and hard about it. As an avid YouTube user—mostly to watch beauty/fashion vloggers—it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this service I love so much might not be so great for artists. I still believe YouTube is a key resource for artists, as well as the rest of the YouTube and Internet world, but it’s possible that there should be a better regulation of “illegal” activity like this.
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but I think the author makes a valid point. Although Spotify pays micropennies per stream to artists, it’s better than nothing. However, I don’t believe Taylor Swift pulled her catalog because of the “lack” of money she was receiving from Spotify, but rather that she could capitalize on digital download sales if it wasn’t available elsewhere. It gained her a lot of free press and publicity that she otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, and that was the idea behind it. Taylor Swift will be back on Spotify sometime soon, it would be shortsighted not to think so. As far as YouTube and Soundcloud go, we’ve got some research to do. How will things unfold in the years to come? Leave your predictions in the comments below.