According to the Wall Street Journal, Spotify may be considering reversing a longstanding policy requiring artists to make their music available to both the company's 80 million free listeners and 20 million paying customers. Essentially, it would allow certain musicians to withhold certain tracks and make them only available to paying subscribers for a certain amount of time. This decision, for which the WSJ cites an unnamed source within the music streaming company, comes after pop star Taylor Swift yanked her entire catalog from the site last year over the rule.
The company needs to look at how such a system might affect usage and subscription rates. The source also declined to expound on which artists (certainly not all of them) would be allowed to withhold tracks and for how long.
Should Spotify agree to this "windowed" streaming scheme, it'd be a huge win for music labels which have long lobbied the service for more flexibility in how it showcases their music. The labels are eyeing streaming as the future of music distribution (seeing as how few people buy CDs or even download music anymore) and the ability to control who gets to hear albums, and when, would grant them a degree of power and clout not enjoyed since the pre-Napster era. Of course, that would also screw 80 million listeners, whose streaming is subsidized by advertisements, out of hearing their favorite new tracks.
We've reached out to Spotify for comment on the matter and will update the post once they reply.