Taylor Swift’s catalogue may have returned to Spotify this summer but the rapprochement apparently only goes so far. Ahead of Friday’s release of the singer’s sixth album, Reputation, it’s being reported that the record will not be made initially available on streaming platforms.
While Swift might have been expected to utilise the windowing policy Universal has agreed with Spotify and only allow Reputation on the subscription tier, the Financial Times reports that the album will not be made available on streaming at all for up to two weeks. However, that remains subject to change as Swift and her label Big Machine (Virgin EMI in the UK) will no doubt be carefully monitoring the reaction to any decision to limit the release to physical and download formats.
Swift’s team have been in talks with both Apple Music and Spotify in the run-up to Reputation. It follows the singer’s decision in autumn of 2014 to pull her last album, 1989, and catalogue from the service having said she was “not willing to contribute my life’s work” to the streaming experiment. Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek said the decision simply drove fans to other platforms such as YouTube.
She reversed the decision this summer, bringing the catalogue back to Spotify in June - a move first predicted in a Music Week interview with Spotify UK's George Ergatoudis. Swift had already embraced Apple Music after she was satisfied with its terms.
In August, Spotify marketed the streaming release of lead single Look What You Made Me Do with a billboard campaign as well as featuring catalogue tracks in playlists, so the early signs suggested she might be on board for the album release – even in a limited windowing availability – given the growing subscriber numbers for the platform.
However, Spotify has apparently ceased actively marketing Swift and did not add her latest song, Call It What You Want, to its New Music Friday playlist, which has 2 million followers.
Streaming holdouts are increasingly rare as the music business completes its transformation to a new model. Beyonce released Lemonade as a streaming exclusive on Jay-Z’s Tidal, while Adele held back 25 from streaming two years ago.
The FT quotes one label executive: “Taylor is one of very few, maybe a handful of artists, than can pull this off. Clearly the strategy is to maximise revenue in the first few weeks, and after that release it wider.”
In the US, there are more than 400,000 pre-orders including purchases from Swift's website, iTunes, Amazon, Walmart and Target. Swift has unveiled the tracklisting, including a song called End Game featuring Ed Sheeran and Future.
Universal Music has not commented on the latest reports. The story was first reported by Bloomberg.