Today, Spotify U.S. launched the album stream to Idle Warship's album, "Habits of the Heart," a full three weeks before the debut project from the group -composed of rapper Talib Kweli and singer-songwriter Res - is set to arrive at retail on Nov. 1 via Blacksmith/Element 9/Fontana. The launch marks the earliest preview album stream to appear on Spotify since the service's U.S. launch on July 14. According to Steve Savoca, head of content for Spotify U.S., Talib Kweli brought the project to Spotify and Savoca characterized the initiative as "quite organic."
"Talib already had a relationship with Spotify," Savoca said, in an exclusive interview with Billboard. "He was part of the initial invite strategy when we launched the service and he approached us [about making the early stream available]. I think it's a very smart and progressive business strategy. We represent an enormous amount of very proactive music fans and they're looking for new things."
According to Savoca, the stream, which went live this morning, will also be supported through banner and audio ads, and it was that increased visibility that appealed to Element 9 Vice President Stu Pflaum. "I understand that we may be hurting ourselves a little bit initially, releasing the album on Spotify before it drops," says Pflaum.
"But I think we gain more than we lose, especially with an underground project like Idle Warship where it's not that well known. Just getting the music in people's hands is the ultimate goal."
Adds Res: "Fans being able to have your music is more important than any dollar sign. [Spotify is] a great way to connect over social media. We are young and current artists, so I think this the best way to connect our music with the fans."
Kweli agrees, noting that the arrangement also offered a way to get in front of any pirating of the project that may occur. "There's always going to be pirates and there's always going to be thieves," says Kweli. "The way I see it, if people truly love my music, they will support me in some way down the road."
For Savoca and Spotify the initiative, which will make the stream available to all Spotify users, is also a win-win. "The artists create excitement around Spotify and there's value to them in the overall scheme," he says
"This is not a horse trade," Savoca adds, when asked about the relationship between ad support and early releases. "There's no editorial, and most advertising comes from labels paying for it. We're out there looking for releases [and] if we see a release we like, we get behind it."
Kweli and Res formed Idle Warship in 2007 and released the mixtape, "Party Robot," as a free download last year. "Habits of the Heart" features appearances by Jean Grae, John Forte, Michelle Williams and Chester French, and can be found on Spotify, here.
- Additional reporting by Maggie Doherty.