Ready for it or not, Taylor Swift’s Reputation is out tomorrow. But unless you’re willing to fork over $13.99 for what’s sure to be her most polarizing album yet, the wait might last a bit longer. Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Swift’s allegedly keeping her new record off streaming services for its first week of release, a similar windowing period to what pop stars like Rihanna, Drake, and Future have used with keeping their album on one streaming service, say Apple Music.
But Reputation might be entering some uncharted territory with Spotify. According to a report from Digital Music News, two sources with knowledge of the streaming negotiations suggest that Reputation will only be available to paid Spotify subscribers for an indefinite period. If the rumors hold, this would be an unprecedented move for the service, and could open the door for more “gated content” in the future.
For an artist like Swift, who doesn’t stream as well as you might think (only one Reputation single currently sits in the Spotify top 50—“Call It What You Want,” at No. 44), the incentive to limit possible streaming is clear. It’s the most practical way to boost traditional album sales and downloads for fans who want to hear it right away. But keeping albums behind a paywall would also get more money in the artist’s pocket (via DMN):
But even after Spotify has access, Swift will draw more substantial revenue from every stream. Royalties from paying subscribers are multiples higher than ad-supported listens, according to statements received by Digital Music News.
Elsewhere in the report, Digital Music News suggests that gated content might pave the way for the elimination of Spotify’s free tier within the next few years. However, this contrasts a recent report from GP Bullhound, an investor in Spotify. In an October update, the investment bank indicated that Spotify would place a stronger emphasis on advertising and still retain a significant chunk of free subscribers in 2020:
Our analysis assumes that 40% of the total subscriber base will be premium subscribers in 2020. A slight decrease in this ratio is expected as emerging markets will drive significant growth going forward and thus we assume more non-premium subscribers will emerge.
So, whether or not it’s any good, Taylor Swift’s Reputation could signal a major change for how A-listers debut new albums on Spotify. But don’t expect to lose your free subscription just yet.