How I Listen

Will “Windowing” Become The Music Industry Norm?

1Although Adele's choice to delay making her album available on streaming services certainly helped boost 25's retail sales, there's some question over whether this practice of windowing can be effective in the music industry over the long term.

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Guest Post by Bobby Owsinski on Music 3.0

When Adele released her latest album 25, it wasn't officially available on most streaming services, which certainly helped her attain some healthy sales. Now nearing 20 million sales worldwide, many label execs have taken notice and want to institute the same policy with other artists as well.

1 (1)Known as "windowing," the strategy has been used in the movie industry for some time. That's where a film is released on in the theaters for a period of time, and only allowed to go to rental and television only after it's finished its theater run.

The music version of windowing would have a superstar album release be only available via CD or download for a period of time before being released to the streaming services.

While that sounds all well and good on the surface, it also sounds like an industry pulling at straws in hopes of peeling back the flow of time. It won't work for a few reasons:

1. Consumers have now adapted to streaming and they're not going back. They expect to be able to find the music they want on their platform of choice right now and if your latest release isn't there they'll just move on.

2. Adele is a special case, with sales propped up mostly by soccer moms and baby boomer women (Sony did a study) who are predisposed to buy a CD or download.

Windowing is a bad idea, and while I don't think it will ultimately get any traction, it's only pushing back the inevitable. Streaming is here to stay until the next new technology is upon us, so let's all get used to it and maybe even enjoy it.

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5 Comments

  1. No sir, you are wrong. This article is another example of someone’s opinion as truth. Streaming is struggling financially, BIG TIME and while everyone wants music for free, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for streaming services who find themselves with negative cash flow and subscribers who predominately don’t want to pay for streaming or musicians and songwriters who can’t survive without selling their music.
    This entire concept that the consumer determines price is non-sense. If a business can’t make money they eventually close down. More music than ever? Not really. We are losing the talent that listeners are interested in paying for.
    The hideous free fall of valuation caused first by piracy and then by freemium has been devastating for working musicians. People will pay for what they want, whether it is red bull or music.

  2. Wow! I haven’t bothered to read Hypebot for awhile now, and articles like this are the reason why.
    The film industry has shown us for years that windowing works. and the film industry has applied windowing with every new advance in technology. Music needs to also. You wouldn’t release a new Star Wars movie on Netflix the same day as in theaters. That would be idiotic. But I am sure the author of this article, would give some BS reason as to why it’s a good idea.
    Hypebot, why do you keep hiring and publishing (and giving credence to) misinformed opinions like this?
    Why do you keep giving credence to opinionists who keep preaching that music creators must remain marginalized?
    I will go back to skipping over hypebot for the time being

  3. Dear Mr Buckley I hope you realise this is just your opinion as well.The problem with Streaming is that it is still competing with radio (including internet radio – another struggling media format as it happens, although still a billion $£€¥ business).It has been said that streaming is the new radio.The top executives are making more out of the music business now than they ever had (apart from the peak in the mid ’90’s perhaps).The Live music income is unprecedented at the moment (mainly from a very select group of performers) – concert tickets are astronomically expensite with some of them.
    The trouble with streaming is that it is has the biggest impact on chart music.Chart music is the driver of who becomes the biggest acts, generally (especially the pop music / commercial / pop media celebrity / single selling artists – who are some of the biggest grossing live artists as well).The US also includes video streaming (youtube etc.) & also radio airplay to evaluate their charts, most countries don’t.
    The problem is that there are too many platforms (at the moment) that govern who gets into the charts.If artists window their work on one platform, at cost to that platform owner (who must have crystal balls to know they will get return on their investment, anyway) they will not get to the top of the charts.Tidal & Katy Perry have just discovered that.The charts are still seen as an indicator of success or failure (apart from the rock / alternative successful live artists).
    Streaming has definitely taken hold, even Apple are trying to get in on the streaming act with Apple Music ( after buying beats).
    Windowing music is never going to be a widespread phenomenom as very few artists will be able to do it, at any particular time.Cannot see a ‘window music’ chart developing very quickly.There are, however, film (box office) charts aren’t there.That is definitely a driver of people going to see films .There are also prominent new film preview media presentations shows.As windowing is exclusive to the platform – it’s whole purpose is to prevent freebie previews.You will not get multi platform promotion due to this (on top of the double whammy of not having visual presence in a chart).
    Windowing has a very small future in the music industry.Mr Ek is right about that.Let’s see what happen’s with his negotiations with the Major’s about windowing.It might reduce the popularity of Spotify & drive people away the platform if it’s overdone.Think Tidal is vertially dead as a popular platform due to it’s use of windowing already (although not a mature streaming business like Spotify).
    The problem with streaming is that it hasn’t produced returns on it’s investment’s as yet within the complicated & unbalanced music industry equation.It’s anybodies guess where it is going.It might end up back selling sheet music again 😉

  4. Windowing can work in the short term, for a very small group of artists.Due to it’s exclusiveness it may prove unpopular with the general audience, making those artist’s less popular.Isn’t the purpose of pop artists to maximise their inclusiveness – to maximise their popularity.
    You cannot window just under the radar or new chart topping artists who haven’t proven their longevity in the music industry.Established artists can ‘cash in’ using windowing.Cashing in is usually done when an artist comes to the end of it’s shelf life.
    BTW Enforcement against piracy is such an old school term now.The music industry has moved on from that.Tidal’s record on ‘taking down’ or preventing leak’s hasn’t proved very successful either.

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