Spotify: We persuaded Universal not to go Premium-only with Shawn Mendes record

Illuminate by Shawn Mendes was one of the most prominent pop albums of 2016, hitting No.1 in the US and Canada and going Platinum in multiple territories.

Yet, according to Spotify’s Troy Carter, the record’s path to market could have been very different.

Carter, Spotify’s global head of creator services, was speaking earlier today (April 24) at a press conference in New York, where he helped unveil the platform’s all-new free tier.

Spotify’s ad-supported update, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, offers more on-demand elements for users across 15 playlists, in addition to data-saving benefits.

It also places personalised playlists front and centre in the ‘free’ mobile app.

“When we showed Shawn’s label how many of his young fans were actually on the free tier, they quickly changed their minds.”

Troy Carter, Spotify

Carter made comparisons between Spotify’s free tier and radio networks, suggesting that “our ad-supported service functions like the biggest radio station in the history of the world”, and that “from a revenue perspective, Spotify’s ad-supported tier is much better for artists and labels than terrestrial radio in many markets”.

The exec also reiterated the global reach of Spotify’s ad-funded tier, which at the close of 2017 stood at 90m people. (The Spotify Premium service, meanwhile, counted 71m subscribers at the same point in time.)

And then, Carter re-wound the clock to tell a previously untold tale – one which remains rather prescient when it comes to the record business of 2018.


He revealed: “About a year [and a half] ago, Shawn’s label came to us about this album, Illuminate, which he was about to release. But they only wanted it on the Spotify Premium service.

“Of course, we were super-excited to have Shawn’s label come to us with this album – he’s an incredible artist, and we knew the fans on Spotify Premium were going to love this new record. But we also knew he had to be on both Premium and free if the goal was to reach that broader audience.”

Added Carter: “When we showed Shawn’s label how many of his young fans were actually on the free tier, they quickly changed their minds. They decided to bring the album to the whole Spotify audience, so that all of Shawn’s [core] fans and the millions of other fans Shawn would not be able to reach on Spotify Premium alone [could hear it].

“I think we’ll see stories like this happen more and more often with this new upgrade to Spotify.”

“I think we’ll see stories like this happen more and more often with this new upgrade to Spotify.”

The release of Illuminate arrived in September 2016 via Island Records/Universal – that’s the “record company” Carter is referring to.

Universal, of course, announced in April last year that it had officially won the right to ‘window’ artist albums on Spotify Premium for two weeks after release, should it ever decide to do so.

To date, it hasn’t – with the exception of a live release from Rammstein, PARIS, released in May last year.


In fact, only one other artist since then – the Broken Bow/BMG-signed Jason Aldean – has taken advantage of their right to ‘window’ an album on Spotify Premium.

Aldean’s latest LP, Rearview Town, was kept off ad-funded streaming services – including Spotify’s – when it was released on April 13.

It has since gone to No.1 on the US albums chart with 183,000 album-equivalent first-week sales, according to Billboard.

(Island Records, meanwhile, is going through a leadership change: long-term chief David Massey is reportedly off to launch a JV with Sony, while UK boss Darcus Beese is rumored to be taking his place.)

“71% of our monthly active users are under the age of 34.”

Said Carter today: “The changes we’re announcing today are great for creators. [They] will grow our free tier way past the 90m-plus music fans who are already there – and that’s already a massive audience.”

He added: “Millennials, ‘Gen Z-ers’, they make up a huge part of our fanbase; in fact, 71% of our monthly active users are under the age of 34.

“This makes our free product that much more important for artists. I don’t know about you guys, but I would have been all over free as a kid.

“Let’s be honest, there are millions of music fans who simply can’t afford to pay $9.99 a month. But that doesn’t mean they’re not music fans, and it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a way to enjoy their favourite [acts].

“Artists can’t afford to ignore that audience.”Music Business Worldwide

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