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Bjork pulls new album from Spotify (possibly maybe for ever)

Barry Collins
2 Mar 2015
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Icelandic songwriter says releasing new album on Spotify "doesn't feel right"

Bjork has joined the growing number of artists who are withholding their latest wares from music streaming service Spotify. The eclectic Icelander says she's not releasing her new album, Vulnicura, to the service because "it doesn't feel right". 

Spotify became embroiled in a row over royalties at the end of last year, when pop singer Taylor Swift decided to yank all of her albums off the service because she felt it didn't provide "fair compensation" for artists, songwriters and all the other contributors to music albums. Bjork hasn't gone that far, leaving her back catalogue available to Spotify subscribers and freeloaders, but says she's in no rush to add her latest work to the streaming library. 

"We’re all making it up as it goes, to be honest," said Bjork, when asked why her new album hadn't appeared on Spotify by Fast Company. "I would like to say there’s some masterplan going on [with the album release], but there isn’t. But a few months ago I emailed my manager and said, 'Guess what? This streaming thing just does not feel right. I don’t know why, but it just seems insane.'"

Bjork seems to take particular issue with Spotify's freemium model, which allows people to stream a limited duration of music in return for listening to adverts. "To work on something for two or three years and then just, oh, here it is for free. It’s not about the money; it’s about respect, you know?" she told the magazine. "Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it."

She goes on to suggest that Netflix has the right approach to streaming, delaying the availability of new releases. "Maybe Netflix is a good model," Bjork said. "You go first to the cinema and after a while it will come on ­Netflix. Maybe that’s the way to go with streaming. It’s first physical and then maybe you can stream it later."

Several other artists have taken a similar approach to Bjork, holding back new material from Spotify. Adele and Coldplay are among the artists who've put new albums on sale for several months before allowing them to be added to the Spotify library. On the other hand, some major artists have succumbed to Spotify's charm. Pink Floyd arrived on Spotify last year, as did Oasis, after withholding their back catalogues for several year. Oasis's Noel Gallagher has released his latest album on the service this week. 

Artists holding back their albums from Spotify is clearly bad news for the service, which charges subscribers £10 per month for the right to play "any song, anytime". Spotify's CEO, Daniel Ek, posted a blog last year, refuting allegations that Spotify was depriving artists of income and pointing the finger at record labels for harvesting all the revenue earned from streaming. 

"We’ve already paid more than $2 billion in royalties to the music industry and if that money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way, that’s a big problem," Ek wrote in November. "We will do anything we can to work with the industry to increase transparency, improve speed of payments, and give artists the opportunity to promote themselves and connect with fans."

Virtual tracks

Despite her Spotify boycott, there's no suggestion Bjork has converted to Luddism. Her 2013 album, Biophilia, was released as an app, and Bjork told Fast Company about shooting a video of one of her new tracks for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. "It’s easy to get really intimate [with virtual reality]," she told the magazine. "It’s almost more intimate than real life. It also has this crazy panoramic quality. I think it’s really exciting."

However, she admitted that the cost of producing an entire album as a virtual reality project was prohibitive. 

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