When Adele’s third album, 25, was released on 11/20/15, the music business was in the early stages of transitioning from a sales-based marketplace to a revitalized, streaming-powered dynamo. At the time, the biggest artists and their labels were reluctant to make their albums available to streaming services, though they were experimenting with streaming their singles.

Terms like “windowing,” “tiered releases” and “cannibalizing sales” were tossed around as the biz looked for ways to move listeners from ad-supported “freemium” to subscription tiers. As a result, 25 wouldn’t hit the streameries until June 2016, seven months after release.

To put the situation into context, Spotify was 10 years old when 25 appeared, but Apple Music had been in operation fewer than five months. Amazon Music had only introduced streaming in mid-2014.

What follows is our reporting on Adele’s ambivalent attitude toward streaming as the album was hitting the marketplace. “I know that streaming music is the future, but it’s not the only way to consume music,” she said at the time. “I can’t pledge allegiance to something that I don’t know how I feel about yet.”


There will be no streaming of Adele’s 25 upon its release tomorrow (11/20), including via Apple Music. Will she change her mind? Perhaps, but that’s a decision she’ll make at a later date.

This is said to be fundamentally about the fact that the megastar singer/songwriter believes art has value and that freemium devalues it for all artists. This is not about money for her—she is, as you may have intuited, wealthy beyond belief. But the big streaming services have offered her huge financial incentives.

Speaking of those services, Spotify has released a statement on the matter: “We love and respect Adele, as do her 24 million fans on Spotify. We hope that she will give those fans the opportunity to enjoy 25 on Spotify alongside 19 and 21 very soon.”

Adele and manager Jonathan Dickins held the 2011 blockbuster 21 back from Spotify because the streaming service wouldn’t offer it exclusively to its paid tier and keep it off the freemium tier. (This refusal of course prompted Taylor Swift  to hold back her monster 1989.)

Even as Dickins made the above-quoted remarks, he acknowledged, “Streaming is the future” and expressed the belief that fans should be able to listen in all kinds of ways.


“Adele isn’t streaming her new album,” while pithy as a headline isn’t technically accurate.

While the megastar and her team have declined to make her new XL/Columbia blockbuster, 25 (now on track to sell as much as A BAJILLION AND A HALF its first week), available via Spotify or Apple Music, songs from the set can be heard on Pandora, iHeartRadio and other streaming-radio services, including Apple Music radio stations.

The difference, of course, is that Spotify and Apple Music have on-demand services that allow listeners to play albums in their entirety (or however they like) as many times as they like. It’s been argued (though the jury is still out) that this form of listening cannibalizes sales.

Lead single “Hello” is the one exception; it can be played on demand on all these services until the cows come home, which is indeed what’s happening.

Streaming radio, on the other hand, is comparatively “non-interactive.” It enables listeners to create stations based on artists or songs, and songs are then chosen based on algorithms and other “curation” tools. Like other forms of radio, it’s frequently claimed, the plays on these services drive impressions and desire for the music. And like other forms of radio, they're governed by a compulsory license. And yes, they generate some revenue, dwarfed though it may be by sales.

Pandora has reported that the addition of material from 25 has pushed the artist’s station adds up 1,200%.

iHeart, meanwhile, recently blasted out a special with live versions of several 25 songs and other content across its streaming platform (as well as a ton of terrestrial stations).


While you—and we—were away, Adele sat for a series of interviews with Time magazine, one of which focused on her reasons for withholding 25 from the streaming services.

“I believe music should be an event,” she said, speaking for the first time about the decision. “For me, all albums that come out, I’m excited about leading up to release day. I don’t use streaming. I buy my music. I download it, and I buy a physical [copy] just to make up for the fact that someone else somewhere isn’t. It’s a bit disposable, streaming.

“I know that streaming music is the future, but it’s not the only way to consume music,” she continued. “I can’t pledge allegiance to something that I don’t know how I feel about yet.”

Adele made the choice herself not to stream the album. “I’m proud of my decision,” she said. “I would have been proud even if the album flopped. I would have been proud because I stuck to my guns, and I think it’s really important as an artist that you do that.”

Adele’s decision follows Taylor Swift’s removal of her catalog from Spotify in 2014; a few months back, she managed to convince Apple to reverse its decision not to compensate artists during Apple Music’s 90-day free trial. “It was amazing,” Adele said of Swift’s stand. “I love her—how powerful she is. We’ll get lumped together now because of it, but I think we would both feel the ability to say yes or no to things even if we weren’t successful.”

TAGS: Adele | 25