Taylor Swift’s album 1989 has been out for 29 hours now, enough time for it to shoot to the top of the iTunes album chart and for any right-minded person to have played it up to 28 times on loop – unless they’re a Spotify user.
The album is, for the time being, only available digitally as a buy-to-own download from select stores (the CD version is more widely sold). While some music sites simply pretend that the album doesn’t exist, Spotify is taking a more direct approach.
1989 is listed on the music steaming service, as are the tracks, but without any album art. Instead, there’s a simple message: “The artist or their representatives have decided not to release this album on Spotify. We are working on it and hope they will change their mind soon.”
It’s not the first time the Swedish firm has taken that approach. Beyoncé fans were greeted with the same message when her album launched exclusively on iTunes, as were Coldplay and The Black Keys fans.
The message isn’t standard practice, either. Albums by other holdouts such as Thom Yorke’s side-project, Atoms for Peace, simply aren’t listed at at all, suggesting that the firm explicitly targets users who are looking for particularly notable absentee albums.
But while some holdouts are by bands or artists who are opposed to Spotify on principle, many more are simply a sales tactic, designed to encourage full-price sales of the album to fans before opening it up for streamers down the road. Swift’s last album, Red, is now available on Spotify, despite having launched as an iTunes exclusive.
Of course, not every streaming service goes down the road of negotiating with labels and artists. The album is available on Grooveshark, although it is unlikely to have a licensing deal with her label to make it available.
The ad-funded site lets subscribers upload music and stream tracks for free, and has long been controversial in the recording industry for this practice. The company relies on the “safe harbour” provisions of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to keep it safe from the potential claims of infringement, but in late September, the group was found liable for infringement by its own employees, who uploaded almost 6,000 tracks without permission.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 28th October 2014 15.38 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010