Katy Perry knows exactly how much Spotify is ‘punishing’ Apple exclusive artists…

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MBW review-1The MBW Review gives our take on some of the music biz’s biggest recent goings-on. This time, we respond to the news that Spotify is ‘punishing’ Apple exclusive artists with our own research and find… it is. The MBW Review is supported by FUGA.


The past 72 hours have been especially fun in the world of streaming exclusives.

On Friday, Bloomberg ran a story which accused Spotify of actively ‘burying’ the promotion of stars who have windowed their music on Apple Music or Tidal.

Spotify has done so, said the report, by excluding artists and tracks from its highly influential playlists, in addition to demoting them from search results.

The Swedish service has now hit back at the article, calling it “unequivocally false”.

Well, to be precise, Spotify says that the allegation of it burying search for Apple/Tidal-friendly artists is “unequivocally false“.

That’s because the other bit – the bit that suggests Spotify is blackballing these artists on its top playlists – is completely true.

There’s no debate here. We’re telling you, it’s happening.

Just ask Katy Perry…


Perry’s big comeback single – her first for two years – is called Rise.

You may or may not have heard it. That’s kind of the point.

An empowering fist-pumper, it was clearly created with the Olympics in mind, and with no expense spared: the track was co-written with Savan Kotecha (One Direction/The Weekend/Justin Bieber) and produced by Ali Payami and Mr Guaranteed Hit himself, Max Martin.

Rise was originally released worldwide as a windowed iTunes and Apple Music exclusive on July 15. It took another week to get to Spotify.

And looking at the world’s charts Rise has, erm, not really risen.

It only hit No.11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has fallen away ever since.

That’s especially disappointing considering that the song featured prominently during NBC’s US television coverage of the Olympics – one of the biggest syncs you could hope for in the market this summer.

In the UK, where streaming now makes up 80%+ of singles ‘sales’, even worse news.

Rise only reached No.25 on the Official Singles Chart in mid-July.

It fell to No.68 the next week, and hasn’t been back inside the Top 70.

In other key European territories, it’s been a certified flop. Check out Germany (No.39), Italy (No.51) and The Netherlands (No.95).

Rise has reached No.1 in Australia, but by Katy Perry standards, it’s a forgettable global performance.

The track clearly didn’t get the commercial boost it desperately needed.

A boost that was never going to come from Spotify.


SpotSince landing on Spotify on July 22, Rise has been continually blackballed on the platform’s biggest playlists.

It has, crucially, been nowhere near Today’s Top Hits (10.2m followers), and has also been conspicuous by its absence on other blockbuster pop playlists.

It didn’t even get listed on Spotify’s New Music Friday on the day it hit the service – although it appears to have been quietly (reluctantly?) stuck there later in July.

Rise did get one spot of support on Spotify’s Pop Rising playlist (443k followers) over a month after it was originally released. Label Capitol was so pleased/relieved about, it tweeted in celebration.

Look at what this treatment has done for Rise’s performance: the track finally charted on Spotify’s Global 200 in early August at No.176.

It never made the Top 80.


Monitor Katy Perry’s biggest fans online, and you’ll find they’re a little scary in their dedication – but certainly not dumb.

Katy Perry

Some important stats before the big conclusion here.

Spotify’s top playlists are now generating more than a billion streams a week. 

That, in most countries, is the chart equivalent of 10 million singles sales.

MBW understands that Spotify has around 12m streaming subscribers in the US, and is pushing 4m in the UK – from a total subscriber base of 39m, and a total active user base of somewhere between 110m and 120m.

Apple Music, meanwhile, has around 7m US subscribers and 1.5m in the UK – from around 17m total subscribers (also its total active user base).


Lucian_GraingeSo let’s get this straight: Spotify has more than seven times the number of active users on its platform than Apple Music.

Every time a superstar like Katy Perry strikes an Apple Music deal, they risk being downgraded (in playlists; not search) in front of around 120m people.

Drake did the Apple Music exclusive thing and not only got away with it, but smashed records.

He’s so big, Spotify couldn’t keep him off its biggest two playlists (Today’s Top Hits and Rap Caviar) even if it wanted to.

Thus, an Apple Music ‘exclusive’ artist is also actually Spotify’s biggest act worldwide.

These rules, it transpires, do not apply to all. Even Katy Perry, the most popular artist on the world… on Twitter.

Katy Perry, of course, is signed to Capitol Records – a division of Universal Music Group.

MBW sources tell us that a key reason why Lucian Grainge banned his label heads from signing streaming exclusive deals with Apple and Tidal last week is because of Spotify’s strength around the world.

Perhaps this had less to do with Frank Ocean, and more to do with Rise… falling?

(It may also give us a clue as to why Britney Spears’ new record – not a UMG release – didn’t end up as an Apple Music exclusive after all last week.)

Drake’s experience proves that certain megastars don’t necessarily need Spotify’s enthusiastic support to release global chart hits in 2016.

Katy Perry’s experience, however, suggests that certain other megastars – let’s be honest, pretty much all other megastars – almost definitely do.


Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 13.35.51The MBW Review is supported by FUGA, the high-end technology partner for content owners and distributors. FUGA is the number one choice for some of the largest labels, management companies and distributors worldwide. With a broad array of services, its adaptable and flexible platform has been built, in conjunction with leading music partners, to provide seamless integration and meet rapidly evolving industry requirements. Learn more at www.fuga.comMusic Business Worldwide

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  • Mateja Praznik

    Well, that’s great. If an artist takes a paycheck from Apple, they really don’t need Spotify’s help.

  • willbuckley

    A sign of the times. The question is will recording artists step-up and land the final crushing blow or allow Spotify to determine their futures? the question. Do you really want to work for Spotify who has shown nothing but contempt for artists or stand up for the possibility of having a future?

    Can you afford to work for Spotify and have a part time career?

    • Arpit Goyal

      Why Spotify is getting all this shit from users and artists alike that they cant help artist in having a full time career. I dont think it is their job to do that in the first place. They can only help and if you read are updated with what they have been doing over the last year or so, you would know that they are trying best. Time is also important factor here.

      • willbuckley

        Let me guess. You’re a programmer telling me about the impact of an Internet company on artists, is that correct?

        • Arpit Goyal

          Hey Will! Yes, I have my degree in Computer Science. But I have worked in Indian Music industry and have been following music industry worldwide for more than 2 years now. I have my opinions. And you, too. But I strongly believe music industry is much better now if you consider 90s and early 2000s. Something good will happen for sure.

          • willbuckley

            I don’t follow the music business, I worked in the music business and yes I’ll admit I know little about the music business in India. Which means you know even less about the music business in the US.

            Worse yet, the founders of Spotif worked for U Torrent and knew nothing about the music business as well.

  • Spotify has balls to fight back Apple shitty bully moves. Spotify deserves respect and my money. Spotify fights not only against the worst company in the world (aka Apple) but helping subscribers getting all new music it can. Cheers.

    • willbuckley

      I think you’ve got that backwards. Spotify is the bully supported by daddy.

      • Spotify plays by rules while Apple pays money they make from other businesses to destroy Spotify. Apple is the bully. But also many other terrible things as well.

  • Robyn Gallagher

    This article seems to be suggesting that because “Rise” is such an amazing song, it would have been a huge hit if only Spotify had playlisted it more. But “Rise” wasn’t all that.

    It lacked a catchy, memorable chorus and it was tied to the Olympics, which took it away from a general “you can do it” feeling and linked it specifically to elite sportsmanship. “Rise” had the lyrical theme of “Roar” with all the sass and attitude removed. This says more about the confused creative direction of Katy Perry’s music career than it does about streaming exclusives.

  • frosty_nerd

    Glad these spotify is using its leverage against the corporate machine that is Apple. One big caveat to this article – was it ever asked if Rise was a “good” single worth the attention (at least by Katy Perry standards)?

  • Golfhacker27

    So WTF is the problem here?
    If an artist gives an exclusive to another retailer, why would Spotify make any effort to support that artist?
    Ms Perry got the second rate treatment that she deserves from a company that she gave second dibs.
    Justice is done.

    • willbuckley

      Exclusives are a standard part of all businesses in the US and has been for decades. Yet other businesses don’t use it as a power play.

      The same thing with Starbucks. I’ve never seen a broadcaster demand the removal of recorded music from a retailer. Selling music has been a good thing for musicians and songwriters and while on the decline, why kill it off prematurely?

      The 70 million long term free subscribers to Spotify is yet another major drain of income from artists. As Spotify continues to hemmaridge money to fulfill their goal as a public company, they do so at the expense of the artist.

      • JCLII

        How is an exclusive not a power play in and of itself? You’re basically telling your fans, “you can only hear it here.” Apple is hoping these exclusives lead to more subscribers and more revenue. I signed up for Apple Music so I could hear the Frank Ocean album. 3 Months free! Guess what? Once I can hear the album on Spotify I am canceling my Apple Music subscription.

        Also, why does it matter whether or not Spotify promotes it? If Katy Perry has fans that use Spotify, wouldn’t they find it for themselves?

        • willbuckley

          You skipped the two hard questions. And gamed the system to get what you wanted, so what’s your beef?

  • Adam

    If an artist chooses one platform exclusively to promote their music (Apple) why on earth should a competing platform promote it as well?

    Obviously if the music is good (ie. Drake) Spotify will do what’s best for users and promote it. But in Perry’s case the song isn’t so hot.

    Seems like artists are trying to have their cake and eat it to here.

  • Nick White

    Some people on here are saying that since Katy’s song isn’t that great, Spotify’s actions are justifiable and that everything’s ok. Whether a song is good or not is a moot point since Katy is one of the hottest artists that Spotify can sell or promote. She helps to pay their bills as does Drake. It therefore behooves the service to get on her good side as much as possible. I don’t listen to Katy, but Mr. Ek should think twice before messing with her. You can’t use business to mask a moral failure.

    • JCLII

      She’s old news.

  • Jon Tattersall

    So Spotify are flexing some muscles to hammer home to (major) labels how important their branded playlists are. Fair enough I guess. With UMG apparently having a 5% stock, I guess it’s not enough to have a say on this one? I think you could be right MBW, as this was probably more the reason Lucian sent the memo.
    I still think Spotify has too much dominance in the streaming sector with their branded playlists. The indies never get a look-in, they have killed off all UGC playlists for discovery, where the indie releases once got some ok exposure.
    Its about time WIN,AIM,ERA etc. question them on this!

  • Arpit Goyal

    May be she is just trying to get more traction on Spotify from listeners by tweeting about it. Who knows. Nobody know what is going on inside her camp!!!

    And anyway! Whether “Rise” is a good song or not is decided by Spotify’s listeners. I agree Spotify might have helped her (if what she has tweeted is correct), but signing exclusive with the competitor doesnt help her case at all.

  • robertminshull

    I’m not sure how accurate a conclusion this is? Especially as Katy and her team are pushing people to listen to the track on spotify in order to win a flag made from the parachute from her music video… I also didn’t even realise the track was an apple exclusive in the first place? It was on YouTube the next day of its release?
    And it isn’t just Drake, Rihanna kept her material from spotify initially as work was a tidal exclusive and work was inescapable on the spotify playlists for months after its release.

    I think the problem is that Katy Perry’s team think her main demographic is younger than it actually is. The people streaming and requesting for I Kissed A Girl, California Gurls, Last Friday Night and Dark Horse to be played on the radio were late high school/college kids at the time of their releases and now they have all aged and simply tweeting links to where to download the song isn’t going to target those listeners. Plus (I personally love Rise) but it isn’t radio friendly for Top 40 radio, it doesn’t fit in with the current vibe in terms of the melodies and the way the vocals are delivered. They aren’t as earwormy as other songs and so obviously that contributes to the song getting less radio play, meaning the song is less exposed and then even less popular on spotify because people don’t go and listen to it later to push its popularity and essentially force it into spotify’s top playlists.

    Plus the music video was pretty different for Katy and when you compare the video to her other music videos this one sits with a maturity level that unconditionally had and so you don’t get mid teens rewatching the video, making the song seem less popular, further decreasing its radio play because radio djs don’t think people are interested in it.

    Just my thoughts about a possible explanation. I do love the song, however. It’s definitely one of my favourites of hers. Although it seems as though Katy isn’t too bothered about it not being a huge hit, especially as music isn’t really her main focus anymore, evident in the fact she is doing shoe lines and cosmetic lines to appeal to her tween fanbase, which doesn’t make up the main bulk of her fanbase anyway.

    Plus she herself has put less promo into the entire Rise release compared to usual. It seems she’s got her spot now and wants to release music when she is ready, chilled out and doing whatever she likes, which is evident in the fact Katy was on vacation during/not long after the release and didn’t even attend the Olympics, which is what the song was for?

  • ilexx

    I’m glad I’m reading articles about this because I absolutely believe Spotify is burying Apple Exclusives on their biggest playlists.

    Maybe they haven’t been doing this all year but they’ve certainly adopted this strategy in the past few months.

    I noticed it when I realized DJ Khaled’s album dropped and only 2 singles were on Spotify’s Top 200 songs in the US. All the album tracks were on Apple Music’s top 200, ppl liked the album, it is still one of the top streamed albums on Apple Music and Google Play Music right now but the tracks aren’t getting any love at Spotify.

    I really thought about it and for a second I thought it was because Khaled’s albums are really compilation albums and maybe that has something to do with it. Then Suicide Squad’s album (which is a compilation album) has gotten alot of love at Spotify and I can’t help but believe that has something to do with it being available widely upon release.

    The thing that really bothers me about Khaled’s seeming exclusion from Spotify’s biggest playlists, is that some of Hip Hop’s best songs this year are on this album and as far as I can see, they aren’t getting any love at Spotify.

    Spotify is the big and bad in the audio streaming world, regardless what anybody wants to believe. They pay artists shit and now because they know the value their biggest playlists have on the music industry, they are flexing their muscle on the industry and we should be happy about that?

    Spotify has the major labels by the balls with their major playlists and they also sell brands sponsorship/advertising for these playlists, so essentially these playlists are becoming what radio used to be. Independent labels are being marginalized, again. Between burying exclusives, screwing indies and paying artists shit, somebody has to call out Spotify on they bs they do too.

    This is technically some of the same bs that most people hate Apple for, getting big enough to start flexing their corporate muscle on the very people that they do business with. Spotify shouldn’t get a pass, even if you hate Apple or some of the other big corporations who have joined the streaming race.

  • bass guitar

    What a joke of an article. The song and album were a dud, not to mention its debut ruined by NBC’s piss poor Olympic coverage. None of the online streams were accessible without a paid cable account. Guess what Millenial Katy Perry fans don’t have… A paid cable account. Furthermore the walled garden to content prevents any casual listeners from tuning in. Sure artists make a nice payday with the Apple debut, but fall into obscurity when the other 6billion of us can’t find your new song. Then artists wonder why they lost mindshare, and music journos make up excuses to drive click bait articles.

  • jacqualine may chan

    The song is not “wow” that’s all. It’s not like she scored #1 for all her singles. What’s the biggie? Just buck up and do a dope one. Everyone experiences a flop once in a while. Stop blaming. The song is not that interesting that is all.

  • Lindsey Wines

    I am not a fan of the exclusive deals for the artists. I think that Lucian Grainage made the right decision by banning the deals for UMG. Also, with being an avid Spotify listener makes me consider that I do find a lot of my music from the playlists like Pop Rising and Today’s Top Hits.

    Second, to consider that Spotify would bury the search of Apple Exclusive supporters is completely false in my opinion. I think that the search would create more of a top search if the fans are searching for it. You also have to think that fans usually don’t have all streaming platforms, unless they are a super fan. This creates usually the fan being an avid Apple music or Spotify listener. I think it would be Katy’s team that would have to find out where her market is finding their music.

    I also think that they are making this seem a bigger deal then it actually is because now the single has almost 20 million streams on Spotify, a sync deal with the Olympics, and is always on the radio. I think that Katy Perry personally is still a household name that isn’t going to go anywhere because her latest single didn’t go #1.