Spotify has long held out against the idea of “windowing,” a.k.a. releasing new albums only to their premium subscribers for a short period of time. According to Billboard, that will soon change. The streaming giant’s new licensing agreement with Universal Music Group allows for a “flexible release policy, ” freeing up the two entities to add a new hurdle in between users and the music for a limited time.
“We will be working together to help break new artists and connect new and established artists with a broadening universe of fans in ways that will wow them both,” said Spotify CEO Daniel Ek in a statement. “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.”
Since Spotify is the only one of the big three streaming services to offer a free, ad-supported tier, they face a unique challenge in convincing wary labels to keep their music on the platform. As more of the listening public gets their new music from streaming services — and, therefore, more industry’s revenue comes from streaming — the Swedish company will have to figure out ways to provide more money to their artists and labels. And this move toward exclusivity for certain releases seems to be a step in that direction.
UMG CEO Sir Lucian Grainge said as much in his statement about the deal.
“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. At UMG, we’ve not only re-imagined distribution models and technologies, but entire business models. 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.”
The deal is the latest step in the constant back-and-forth between labels and streaming services. Just recently, Universal Music Group made headlines for looking to ban the practice of single-platform exclusives.