When you listen, the labels listen too. Especially when you’re pre-saving future faves.
Pre-saving albums on Spotify can give recording labels access to more personal user data than you might realise, an expose by Billboard has found.
Pre-saves, or what Apple calls them, pre-adds, are essentially what the industry called pre-orders in the time before the digital revolution.
Subscribers can tag upcoming album releases so that they’re entered into their libraries soon as they’re available. Users have to click and approve permissions to give labels access to do this, but through this process on Spotify, labels are given “far more account access” than the streaming titan would usually allow, says Billboard.
The investigation found the permissions could give a label access to email addresses and empower them to track what folks listen, change the artists they follow and, just maybe, control their music remotely.
In one case study, users who tried to pre-save Chris Brown’s song ‘No Guidance,’ were asked by Sony Music to allow it access to “upload images to personalize your profile or playlist cover” and manage who you follow on Spotify. Was everyone aware of this before they clicked “add”? Probably not.
Since 2017, labels — the worst offender being Sony Music — have asked for an excessive amount of permissions, when it only requires a single permission to pre-save an album. Why haven’t you noticed? Spotify hides the actual permissions requested behind a drop down menu pic.twitter.com/KxQSbyW8fj
— Micah Singleton (@MicahSingleton) June 27, 2019
Sony Music was found to often ask for the most permissions, with 16 for a Little Mix campaign. Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group were found to ask for around 10 additional permissions apiece. None of the labels or Spotify responded on the report.
Pre-saves are a handy marketing device which can boost an album’s first week streams. And they’re picking up steam. We know from Spotify’s rival Apple Music that the million-add release is just around the corner. Taylor Swift’s Lover reportedly notched up 178,600 worldwide pre-adds on Apple Music in a single day (Billboard’s report doesn’t delve into Apple’s pre-add terms and conditions).
At a time when the policies of tech giants Alphabet, Facebook and others made online privacy a “contentious issue,” the report reads, “music’s pre-saving process could begin to spark concern among consumers, and perhaps even regulators.”
It’s just another sign that the devil really is in the detail, or in this scenario, the fine print.
Billboard’s study is a deep dive. Read it here.