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To Stream or Not to Stream: Adele’s Question

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Adele’s highly anticipated album, 25, releases November 20th, but questions still remain. Will she release 25 on Spotify and other streaming platforms on the same day as the physical release, or will she bait more sales by staggering the release on streaming platforms?

Hype for the album is real. Last month, the video for “Hello,” the album’s first single, broke streaming and download records with 100 million views and over $1 million in sales. The album is almost certain to be one of the biggest sellers of the year. For Adele, the question of when to stream will be informed by the breadth of her fanbase.

 

For the most part, Adele’s fan base is between the ages of 10 and 60 — a huge spread. But this might make Adele’s decision easier. Consumers who buy music and consumers who stream are, generally speaking, distinct groups of consumers. As Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Research points out, 60% of consumers between the ages of 16 and 24 stream and only 20% buy CDs, while 43% of consumers between the ages of 40 and 50 buy CDs and only 34% stream. In theory, Adele has almost nothing to lose in allowing her album to be released on streaming services and for digital and physical purchase on the same day. Different sections of her demographic should fill out the different methods of consumption, with younger fans streaming the album and older fans buying a digital or physical copy.

However, it is still possible that Adele could make more money from a staggered streaming release and forcing some consumers to both purchase the album and stream it from subscription services — but is the staggered release really the right model for the music industry? Probably not. If the future of music is streaming (and it is), then perhaps streaming platforms should be prioritized over physical and digital sales.

The music industry has been on the distribution teeter-totter for a while, and it doesn’t seem to be leveling out anytime soon. Adele’s decision might not predict the future of the industry, but with her market power and respect within the industry, she has an opportunity to set a precedent in how albums are released. At Musonomics, we hope to say “Hello” to 25’s release on streaming platforms come November 20th. What do you think?

by Matthew Jong

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