Spotify may be revolutionizing the way people hear music online, but some artists are worried that the streaming-music boom could cannibalize sales. The Black Keys and Coldplay held their new LPs back from Spotify (and competing services like Rhapsody), in the hope that fans will buy them. While Spotify won’t reveal its royalty payouts, sources peg them around a fraction of a cent per stream. “How is that good for musicians?” says Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. Adds drummer Patrick Carney, “We didn’t want it to impact our record sales.” Their strategy seems to be working: At 206,000 copies, El Camino‘s first-week sales are the duo’s highest ever. More evidence in favor of holding back: Adele’s 21, the top-selling album of 2011, is only available as a four-track sampler on Spotify.
Both Coldplay and the Keys are expected to make their albums available eventually, pointing to a new strategy for rolling out big records. “Why shouldn’t we learn from the movie business?” says Scott Borchetta, CEO of Taylor Swift‘s label, Big Machine Records. “They have theatrical releases and cable releases. There are different tiers.”
This story is from the January 19th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.