First of all, here is a quick intro for those of you who might be unfamiliar with Netflix (and who most likely still have “12:00” flashing on your VCR).
Netflix began as a mail-order movie rental service, offering customers the ability to select from a huge library of DVD’s and having the discs mailed directly to the customer. Members paid a flat monthly subscription fee, and they could check out 2 discs at a time for as long as they wanted. When they were finished, they simply slipped the disc back into the envelope, sealed it, and mailed it back, postage paid. Not a bad deal.
Then in 2007, Netflix announced it would start streaming movies, which means customers could watch select titles over the internet without having to wait for discs to arrive or mail them back when finished. The service was a resounding success, and now Netflix is primarily a video streaming service that both licenses titles from movie studios and produces its own content.
Today, Netflix charges a monthly subscription rate of about $15/month. For this subscription, you get access to its entire online library for streaming. This library is not set in stone, however; movie and television titles are constantly being cycled in and out, with most titles running on a limited basis. For example, in the month of June, Netflix added “Batman Begins” to its streaming library. This title will remain for a few months and then will be removed, while another title will take its place.
This same model is followed by other streaming platforms such as Hulu and Amazon Prime. They essentially act as third-party vendors on which consumers can view select titles via streaming. Usually, studios will allow titles to show on one particular platform at a time (usually whichever platform offers the best deal).
What if streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music used this same model? What if Spotify announced a select group of artists and/or albums were coming to their platform for a period of 6 months and then going away?
While this goes against my theory of long-term gains in the streaming industry, it also offers an incentive of sorts. If someone hears an album on a streaming platform that they really like and know that the album will be going away after so much time, wouldn’t that be an incentive to purchase the CD or digital download version?
For example, if the Gaither Vocal Band were to say, “You can stream our new album exclusively on Spotify for the month of August, after which, it will be removed from the platform.” That will give consumers unlimited access to listen to the full album for an entire month, and if they enjoy it, they can purchase the CD after it goes off the streaming platform. Maybe even throw on a bonus track or two for further incentive.
In fact, albums actually DO come and go from streaming platforms, but they’re not announced as doing so. About half of the Statler Brothers discography has been removed from digital platforms in the last month, for example, without warning.
This would not only be a good way to promote new releases, but also gauge the potential market for re-issues of older material. If an out-of-print album is getting a significant amount of streams, then the record label could announce a re-issue on CD to be released at the same time the album drops from streaming platforms.
For many SG artists, this would actually solve the problem fear of streaming eating into their sales. Essentially, what you have are 10-12 singles hitting streaming all at once for about a month or so, then going offline and encouraging purchases of those albums.
Granted, that wouldn’t necessarily stop pirates from doing their thing – someone will ALWAYS figure out a way to circumvent legitimacy, but I highly doubt it’s impact is such that it would cause a huge impact on an artist’s bottom line (although, depending on the artist, ANY impact on the bottom line is significant).
What are your thoughts? If you heard an album you loved on Spotify or Apple Music, and it was subsequently removed, would you pay to purchase that album on CD or digital download?