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Coldplay Keeps New Album Off Spotify. Surprised? You Shouldn’t Be

Coldplay? has held back its new album, A Head Full of Dreams, from Spotify, becoming the latest A-list artist to avoid the world's largest paid music service.

Coldplay has held back its new album, A Head Full of Dreams, from Spotify, becoming the latest A-list artist to avoid the world’s largest paid music service. Instead, the album, out Friday, is available at paid-only subscription services like Apple Music as well as Amazon Prime Music, Amazon’s music streaming service it makes available to its Prime members.

The news is getting heavy media attention but was totally predictable. For years, Coldplay has tinkered with its release strategies and prioritized purchases and paid listening over anything ad-supported. The release of its 2008 album Viva La Vida or Death To All His Friends was preceded by a free download of the fist single, “Violet Hill” and a free concert at Madison Square Garden. At the time, no other popular band had ever done something so radical. It seems to have worked. Viva La Vida had U.S. sales of 721,000 in its first week, according to Nielsen Music. That was followed by a free download of a live album for fans that attended the Viva La Vida tour.

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The next album, Mylo Zyloto, was released in December 2011 and held back from Spotify for just over 3 months. But the band didn’t avoid digital channels. It instead chose to release an audio-only video at YouTube for “Paradise” that was effectively an advertisement for the album. To further encourage purchases of album downloads, a free stream of the entire album was also made available at iTunes for a week before its release. “We always work with our artists and management on a case by case basis to deliver the best outcome for each release,” EMI said at the time.  

Spotify holdouts were actually common 2011. Tom Wait’s album Bad as Me was also a holdout. Metal label Century Media pulled its catalog in August (it returned 11 months later). In December, the Black Keys opted to kept El Camino off Spotify. It did the same with their 2014 album Turn Blue.

Coldplay again prioritized purchases over streams with its 2014 album, Ghost Stories. The album was made available Spotify as well as Deezer and Rdio four months after the CD, LP and digital download were released. (In a page taken from radio promotion, the band did release three singles to Spotify.) And in an effort to drum up purchases, the album was also available as a free stream at iTunes the week before release.

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A similar playbook was used for Dreams. Coldplay released an audio-only video for “Adventure of a Lifetime” on Nov. 5 that has racked up 11.9 million views to date. The official video was released November 29 and has 3.2 million views. Again, Coldplay has taken either a political or economic stance against ad-supported stream of an entire album. And like it has done in the past, Coldplay has used streaming — tracks only — to promote its album.

Adele and Taylor Swift may be the biggest artists to hold back albums from streaming services, but they’re hardly the first. The two female stars appear to have ideological differences with Spotify and some other streaming services. Coldplay is different. It plays hard to get with Spotify but acquiesces after a few months. Expect the same this time around.