MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's time once again for our regular feature Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand stories we'll be hearing more about in coming days by parsing some of the words associated with those stories. Today, our word is streamable. And that's our word because the pop superstar Adele will be releasing one of the most anticipated albums of the year this coming Friday, but she may prevent services like Spotify from streaming it. So far, she's offered just one song - "Hello" - and it's already been heard hundreds of millions of times.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO")
ADELE: (Singing) Hello. How are you? It's so typical of me to talk about myself. I'm sorry.
MARTIN: Piotr Orlov is an editor with NPR Music, and he's in our New York studios to explain all this. Hi, Piotr.
PIOTR ORLOV, BYLINE: Hello.
MARTIN: Hello, again. (Laughter). So streamable means what?
ORLOV: Streamable means listening to a song from beginning to end on one of the number of streaming music services available out there - Spotify, Rdio, Tidal being the top three.
MARTIN: Why would Adele opt not to make her album streamable? And I know that Taylor Swift - I think many people may remember that Taylor Swift and Beyonce have also pulled some of their music, too. Why do they want to do that?
ORLOV: Well, it's a twofold answer. The first would be financial. Streaming does cannibalize somewhat out-of-the-gate sales. Artists are a lot more likely to make more money for a huge release, such as Adele's album, such as Taylor Swift's album, when they sell either downloads or physical products. And the other would be around artists' rights and royalties. The way that the economics of Spotify works is that some streams are highly monetizable and some are not.
MARTIN: So, Piotr, how much money is Adele leaving on the table by not doing this?
ORLOV: Adele is leaving a lot of money on the table. I would say it's upwards of a million dollars...
ORLOV: ...In the first week.
MARTIN: But is the logic of it, though, that she'll make more in the long run by utilizing these other mechanisms? How does that work?
ORLOV: Well, I would say the logic is that in the short run, she will make more money because she would definitely be making more money per unit sold then she would on a commensurate per stream streamed, if that makes sense.
ORLOV: So - but there's...
MARTIN: This is a financial decision. This isn't an artistic decision.
ORLOV: I would say 90 percent - that is more likely. There's an opportunity for Adele to set a record for first week sales, which is a 15-year standing record. If there is an opportunity to sell more than 2 million records out of the gate, that would be definitely affected if the album is also available on Spotify and on the streaming services.
MARTIN: I thought that when Taylor Swift pulled her music from one of the streaming services, that part of it was she protesting the amount of money that artists actually get pair per stream.
ORLOV: That is absolutely true, but the thing about it is it's less that being paid per stream than not being paid on a freemium model. Let me try to quickly explain that. So services like Spotify - they charge $10 a month, but they also have a free model. If you don't want to pay for it, you'll have to listen to all your music with commercials. There's a different royalty scale to how much you get paid on a freemium model versus what you get paid on a premium model, and that was the large crux of her argument.
MARTIN: That's Piotr Orlov from NPR Music. Adele's album "25" comes out on Friday. Piotr, thank you.
ORLOV: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO")
ADELE: (Singing) Hello from the other side. I must have called a thousand times.
MARTIN: This is NPR News.
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