Led Zeppelin On Spotify & Beyonce's Surprise New Non-Christmas Album

Led Zeppelin On Spotify & Beyonce's Surprise New Non-Christmas Album

Last week, there were two big music releases.  One was the announcement by Spotify that the full Led Zeppelin catalog would be available on the service over a period of days.  The second, bigger splash, was Beyonce's new "visual album," which was available exclusively through iTunes.  In the great scheme of all things music, should we care?  Does this help new, DIY artists?  Or is this just a stunt, a gimmick, that can't be repeated?

Led Zeppelin On Spotify & Beyonce's Surprise New Non-Christmas Album

Some quick background on both deals.  First, Spotify has received oodle (that means a lot) of criticism from artists claiming the service hasn't pain enough in royalties.  "The last fart of a dying corpse" is what Radiohead's Thome Yorke said of Spotify.  Led Zeppelin was one of the last big holdouts from the service (there's still no AC/DC or Beatles or Bob Seger; the others you'd think wouldn't be there, i.e. Metallica and Madonna, have been there for a while).  Spotify gains one of the biggest catalog artists of all time and Zeppelin gets a nice publicity push in the busy holiday buying season.  This is a good deal for all.

The Beyonce release is extra-special because of the NSAish secrecy which kept it from the public.  There were no leaks.  There was no single, no 6 month lead-up to the album.  It just appeared.  The strategy seemed to work.  The record debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart with 617,000 copies sold.  This was a big deal for Beyonce and her label.  They didn't need to spend millions to promote the record before its release.  And consumers could only purchase the full album.  The "record" wasn't sold so that fans could purchase/download singles.  If you were one of the lucky co-writers of a song on the album, that means that even if your song was one of the album's dogs (and you know there are some bad cuts on the record, every album has 'em), you're still going to see a nice royalty check next quarter.  Merry Christmas to you!

The media has focused a lot on the strategy of the Beyonce release.  Some, like industry insider Steve Stoute HERE have claimed that releases like this are now "the future of the music business."  Others, like industry critic Bob Lefsetz HERE, have called the whole process "a stunt."

The whirlwind of reaction makes one wonder if Spotify/Led Zeppelin should have made their announcement a few days earlier than they did, because their deal has largely been forgotten by now.

Let's give Led Zeppelin some credit. By holding out from Spotify for as long as they did, they were able to make a fairly big splash. They pulled a marketing trick from The Beatles and waited. While their streaming count hasn't gone through the roof (around 3 million total as of Wednesday, 12/18), they are probably one of the few bands that can cut a deal with their label group (Warner) and Spotify guaranteeing them a certain amount of money, either as an advance or over a certain time period.

Beyonce probably had a specific deal with iTunes as well. It may not have been money, but it was most likely guaranteed marketing support from iTunes that was worth giving them the exclusive. If, in fact, Target is going to pass on the album, it's no big loss to them. CDs are a loss-leader for them. Unless they got some sort of exclusive (and Wal Mart wants similar deals), there's no point in them committing space and dollars to something their data probably states won't sell through over the two weeks before Christmas. These are good deals specifically for Beyonce and Led Zeppelin.

Would these exact ideas work for U2, Madonna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, the Foo Fighters, Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, or any other Top 2013 artist? You know their managers and labels are looking into hybrids. And, if DIY artists are smart, they're also figuring out what they can do on a scale that they can afford. This Beyonce deal happened once. Now it's been done. You can't repeat it and expect the same results. But if this deal forces industry minds to think a little harder and be a little more creative, it may turn out to have more lasting effects than we can even imagine.

Dave Philp is Assistant Professor of Music Management at William Paterson University and Chief Organizer Guy of YouChoose, a live events music fundraising and social media company that has raised many, many thousands of dollars for non-profit causes. Join the good fight and help change your corner of the world by visiting YouChoose now: http://myyouchoose.com/. To sign up for our email newsletter, click HERE. Mmkay?