Adele-To Stream Or Not To Stream?

It doesn’t matter.

This is the kind of question that’s gummed up the works, and public perception, for the better part of two years. As if stars like Taylor Swift and Jay Z could affect human behavior, as if we don’t live in a world where the consumer is king and the rest of us float in their effluvia.

To put it simply, no YouTube and Taylor Swift is on Spotify in a heartbeat.

Tidal either morphs into something else or goes out of business. As for a sale, pennies on the dollar at best. Because exclusives are meaningless. Ask Dr. Dre about being exclusive to Apple. The greatest impact his album had was in its publicity, did you hear it?

You want to be everywhere all the time.

Unless you put money first.

And the music business is one of hustle, of uneducated men and women trying to get rich, employing subterfuge if necessary, because it’s all about the individual and nothing’s going to stay in their way. It’s as if doctors didn’t need diplomas and didn’t care about serving humanity, but making the most money.

If Adele decides not to put her album on streaming services it will only be about one thing, the money. But even her team can see the lack of wisdom in such a decision, because it would hurt her career. Then again, in music the acts are fungible and no one looks long term and mistakes are made constantly.

The only reason to not be on Spotify, et al, is because of the money. If you think any artist can fight the future that is streaming you’ve got your head up your rear end and don’t realize streaming already won. The agitation of acts over payment is a non-story that just keeps people from paying, that keeps them streaming YouTube videos, only in the music business can an industry not embrace a game-changing technology. It would be like computer companies refusing to install Wi-Fi. Microsoft not upgrading Office. Nokia saying the future is flip-phones, and they’re gonna keep on making them only.

Did you see that Microsoft wrote down $7.6 billion on its Nokia purchase? Give the company credit for seeing the light, for wiping away the past and embracing the future. And note that Steve Ballmer led them to the precipice, it was he who couldn’t see the future, not only with the Finnish phone company, but with so many other choices. After all, it was Microsoft, king of companies, right?


Don’t overestimate Adele’s power. If she never put out another record the business would survive. Hell, the Beatles broke up and music marched on. People died and music marched on.

But the press loves an angle, the press loves getting you to talk about something irrelevant so you’ll miss the real issues.

Same time next year there won’t be this discussion. Because sales will have faded that much more and streaming will have been embraced that much more. We’re in a transitory moment. No one puts out an album that’s not on the iTunes Store anymore, but do you remember when that was an issue? When bands wouldn’t go digital? When they didn’t want their album broken up? Hell, ask anybody under fifteen, they don’t!

Or why don’t you do an exclusive with Walmart! How many bands walked through that door? Now Walmart itself has stalled, with Amazon eating its future lunch.

Distribution comes and goes, it’s the music that remains.

Led Zeppelin was on vinyl only. And then 8-track, cassette, CD, file/MP3/AAC and now stream. Did any of these carriers affect how you felt about the band? Of course not. As for being prescient, their manager sold out their royalties believing their catalog wasn’t worth anything. Elvis’s manager did this too. No one would do such a thing today. Because those in the know realize the money is in longevity.

But Peter Grant and Colonel Tom Parker were hustlers. They got the money now. Today it’s about tomorrow.

So I’m not saying Adele won’t hold her album back from streaming services. But if she does, it’ll be for a brief window only. It’s just that you can’t point to this action and draw any conclusions that it’s about anything but the money.

It’s too much about the money in society and certainly in the music business, where the acts scalp their own tickets while pledging fealty to their fans.

But it only goes so far. Tidal was a disaster in the announcement and the aftermath. People won’t follow you over the cliff.

But that does not mean a streaming company won’t pay Adele for an exclusive window. Thinking it burnishes their image and will deliver new subscribers.

But it won’t for Tidal, we’ve already seen that.

And Apple’s market share is too small for most people to jump in based on this.

The only company which could benefit from an exclusive is Spotify, the same way XM could have benefited by making a deal with Howard Stern, it would have put a stake in Sirius’s heart.

And, of course, Stern went to Sirius, which eventually devoured XM, but Sirius had deep pockets and other programming, it took a long while for Stern to get his footing there, to increase paying subscribers. Stern’s footprint and influence were minimized. Only by going on AGT did he resuscitate his image and regain his place in the national marketplace. But Stern was on radio nearly every day. Adele puts out an album every four or five years! A mistake now would hurt her career!

But she might do it.

And if she does, laugh, heartily.

It will mean she missed the memo.

And the memo is that there’s plenty of money in music, albeit not as much as in finance and tech, yet there are a bunch of people, both old and young, yearning for the old days wherein selling a piece of plastic generated instant income, they want those days to return. But while they’re at it, why don’t they have you give up Netflix and Hulu? Meanwhile, HBO realized streaming is the future and jumped in!

And you might claim that it’s different, there’s no freemium tier.

I might say how do you expect people to pay when you keep muddying the water, vilifying streaming services, holding your music from them?

Today you’re lucky if you’ve got an audience at all. Do your best to keep it. Rappers give out free mixtapes, they got the message. Eric Church sent his album to fan club members free and unannounced. Super-serve those who care, otherwise few will care at all. And only take the short term money if you don’t care about the long term cash. And know that anything that is inaccessible is hobbled, because distribution is king and no act, no content is bigger than the pipe.

Adele, put your music on streaming services, all of them, be a beacon for hope as opposed to a rearguard operator, you can do good here.

Or don’t, I don’t care. And neither does anybody else other than a cadre of losers who believe someone stole their cheese and refuse to embrace the present, never mind the future.

Life’s gonna get really hard for them.

Keep on movin’…

Embrace change or die!

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  1. Pingback by Humility | Dave Greten's Blog | 2015/11/08 at 07:42:50

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