Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How to Solve the Mystery of Spotify and the Missing Coldplay Album

You can listen to just about any song in the world, for free, on Spotify. One big exception: “Mylo Xyloto,” the new Coldplay album, which isn’t available on the streaming music service or any of its rivals, like MOG or Rdio.

Why not? No mystery at all: The band has decided that it wants to sell albums and tracks, not streams.

Billboard’s Glenn Peoples walks through this one quite effectively. It’s not that Coldplay doesn’t want to promote its new music on the Internet. It’s offering plenty of free samples through outlets like iTunes and YouTube, including a free concert that Google streamed this week.

It’s just that the band thinks that offering unlimited listens via Spotify and other streamers will cut into sales.

Spotify and the other services do pay the music labels and publishers to use their music, and eventually that money is supposed to make its way down to the musicians.

But for the few big acts like Coldplay that can still move millions of albums — their last one, which got a big push from Apple, sold 2.8 million copies — there’s no way that Spotify royalties will ever come close to the money they’ll make selling downloads and CDs (yes, CDs — the music industry still sells more discs than digital copies).

The list of Coldplay-size artists gets smaller and smaller every year, which is one big reason that the music labels finally acquiesced and let Spotify offer free music. Some money > none. But if they believe Spotify-style streaming ends up accelerating the decline of their remaining music sales, you might see more pullbacks down the line.

Meanwhile, speaking of absences: Note that the Beatles still aren’t legally available on any other outlet beyond iTunes.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work