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Sony chief reckons windowing will become the norm in music

By | Published on Friday 19 February 2016

Sony Music

The boss of Sony’s US-based entertainment business – under which the conglom’s global music companies sit – has predicted that the record industry will move to a windowing approach with its new releases. To an extent this will mean adopting the approach of Hollywood, Michael Lynton being much more hands on with Sony’s movie operations.

There has been much talk about so called windowing in music circles of late, of course, partly because of Adele’s decision to hold her new album off the streaming platforms, forcing fans to buy it on CD or download. Though Lynton was arguably proposing a system more like that advocated by Taylor Swift than Adele, in that the windowing isn’t downloads-first-streams-later, but paid-for-platforms-first-freebie-platforms-later.

Speaking at the Code/Media conference in California yesterday, Re/code reports that Lynton said of the recorded music sector: “We all see the business is moving downhill; the download business is declining quarterly. The kind of a service that we would like to see, going forward, is a subscription service”. And to help make that happen, “going forward, you will see some version of windowing in the music industry”.

It’s no secret that some label execs have been putting pressure on those on-demand streaming services that have a freemium level – so, in particular Spotify – to allow at least bigger name artists to only provide their new content to the company’s paying subscribers for a set period, of maybe weeks or months, with said new releases then rolling onto the freemium level in due course.

Aside from possibly providing a little boost in CD and download sales in the week of release, said label execs reckon that big new releases being reserved for paying subscribers on Spotify-type services would provide a compelling reason why consumers should start paying, beyond the no-ads and more mobile functionality currently offered.

To date Spotify has been resistant to that plan, although there have been some indications it may reconsider in the near future. However, the streaming service remains hesitant about limiting its freemium offer too much, as the freemium-to-premium upsell approach is the company’s main marketing strategy.

Bosses there will always express concern that if too much new content is kept off Spotify Free, people who could be upsold the premium package down the line will never sign on, opting instead for YouTube or the file-sharing platforms that have been particularly buzzy this week following Kanye West’s decision to lock his new album exclusively to Tidal.

Though, despite all that, Lynton is probably right to say that – for big name artists at least – some premium-to-freemium windowing could well become the norm.