Are Windowed Releases Coming to Music? I’d Bet on It

We’re already well trained when it comes to movies. First, a film is shown in the theatres across the five regions of the world (North America is Region One). That’s followed by a spell on airlines and in hotel rooms. Then come DVDs, paid streams (Apple TV and on-demand offerings from cable companies), pay-per-view, premium cable and finally free TV. This lifecycle allows the movie industry to squeeze as much money out of a film as they can over an extended period.

Could this “windowing” be on its way in music? In the age of streaming music services, I’d bet the farm on it. In order to drive maximum revenue from an album or song, it would work like this:

  1. Physical release/iTunes sale
  2. Paid streaming music service (i.e. paying subscribers to Spotify, Apple Music, etc.)
  3. Free tier of streaming music service.

There might also be an additional window: an exclusive period granted by the artist/label to a specific streaming service, much like how Kanye launched The Life of Pablo only on Tidal and what The 1975 is currently doing with Apple Music.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton explained how this all might work at the Code/Media conference in California.

Great! But there are a few roadblocks.

Spotify and Apple, the two largest streaming music services, only have 35 million or so subscribers between them. That’s far too small a customer base to making windowing with them beneficial to the artist/label. Then again, creating windowing situations would help boost subscriber numbers, thereby alleviating that problem. So we’ve got a chicken-and-egg problem.

Second, there’s YouTube. Within seconds of an album being released, it’s up for free on YouTube. And with YouTube being the largest source of music in the known universe–well, you see the problem.

More at Re/Code.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Are Windowed Releases Coming to Music? I’d Bet on It

  • February 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    In the words of Neo, “Woah.” Of course, terrestrial radio and SiriusXM would continue to broadcast promotional singles/tracks prior to the physical release, right? Like they’ve always done?


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