Music Industry

Are We Nearing the End of Free Streaming? Maybe. It Could All Be Over in 3 Years.

It’s insanely easy to access virtually every song ever recorded–and it’s free. Fire up your free version of Spotify or head over to YouTube and tens of millions of songs are but seconds away. Fifteen years ago, this was the stuff of science fiction, yet today we take it for granted.

But hang on there, bunky. How long do you think this glorious ability will last? Some suggest that it could all be over in less than three years as the music industry moves to shut down all manner of free streaming in order to force people to pay for subscriptions. This is from Digital Music News.

Right now, the music industry is losing its war against YouTube.  But maybe that’s because they haven’t yet deployed the nuclear option.

That is, turning the lights off entirely on free music streaming.

According to separate sources at major music content groups, a free streaming shutdown is now on the roadmap.  More specifically, the plan would involve a concerted effort by the ‘big three’ major labels to terminate free access on both YouTube and Spotify.

The terminations would occur after an agreed-upon threshold of paying streaming subscribers is reached.  In just 2-3 years, that threshold could materialize.

In order to enforce the transition mandate, the labels will threaten pullback on critical music licenses.  That is proving a highly-effective tactic, and one used successfully against Spotify several months ago to implement ‘windowing’ for high-profile releases.

Accordingly, terminating free isn’t a new thought — just as windowing was simmering for years.  In fact, a second source said ‘shutting it down’ has been actively under discussion for years.  But tricky politics between artists, YouTube, Spotify, and internal debate made that impossible.

On top of all of that, a faction within the industry has strongly felt that free streaming has marginalized piracy, and that this ‘starvation process’ should continue.

This is important. Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 37434 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Are We Nearing the End of Free Streaming? Maybe. It Could All Be Over in 3 Years.

  • If ever there was a move that came straight out of the Pirate Bay’s marketing department …


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