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Spotify Opens Window

Spotify has agreed to change its policy on ‘windowing’ new releases on its premium tier after signing a new multi-year global license agreement with Universal Music Group (UMG). Under the new deal, Universal artists will be able to release new albums on premium only for two weeks.

The issue has long been a hot topic, with Taylor Swift famously shunning the streaming service and pulling her back catalogue in protest during 2014.

Daniel Ek, Chairman and CEO of Spotify, who has previously been inflexible about albums appearing on both free and premium tiers of the service, said: “We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we’ve worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy”.

Ek continued: “Starting today, Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy. I want to thank Sir Lucian for his leadership in everything we have done so far and in everything that we will do together to deliver on the promise of the new music economy for all the people who make music and all the people who love it”.

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, added: “Eight years ago, when streaming was a welcome but small source of revenue, UMG embraced partners like Spotify as a way to help return music to a vibrant future benefitting the entire ecosystem. Working hand in hand with these digital services brought us the industry’s first real growth in nearly two decades”.

Grainge went on: “Today, streaming represents the majority of the business. Our challenge is transforming that upturn into sustainable growth.  In a market this dynamic, one evolving more rapidly than ever before, success requires creative and continual re-evaluation of how best to bring artists’ music to fans. The only constants must be great music and fair compensation for artists and creators. To that end, the long-term success of Spotify, and others like it, is essential to the ecosystem’s enduring health”.

This is all very well, possibly transformative and probably means that you’ll soon be able to listen to the back catalogues of Taylor Swift and Adele on Spotify– but the deal represents a bit of serious backtracking from Spotify.

Will the move in fact exacerbate competition around streaming exclusives, fragmenting a growing streaming market? With Apple reportedly handing Chance the Rapper $500,000 for a two week exclusive, what are the expectations of high profile artists and labels entering into such deals?

There is little evidence that windowing is an effective strategy for any artist- Kanye West tried it to give Tidal a boost last year and ended up at the top of the piracy charts, while the sales of Ed Sheeran and Drake have not exactly been detrimentally affected by a ‘release everywhere’ approach this year.

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