Product Reviews

What Music Labels Learn When You Pre-Save Music

In a recent TikTok video, musician Clinton Kane riffs on the push by labels to get fans to pre-save music from artists, even before their songs are released. In the video, his management team demands hundreds of thousands of pre-saves before his song can be released. It’s surprising, but the message is clear: Labels want your RSVP before they’ll even schedule the main event.

The pitch to music fans is all about convenience. Tap save now and, when it’s released, a new song or album will show up in your library immediately. The benefits for the artists and labels are arguably greater: Pre-saving music requires direct access to your account on whatever music service you use. If you attempt to add or save music ahead of its release, a disclaimer will pop up alerting you to the potentially eye-popping amounts of data you’re giving access to, from your music library and listening habits.

While listeners get convenience, developers (either labels or third-party services) get data—possibly more than you know. Depending on the service, you may turn over your name, email address, subscription type, and number of followers. But that’s only the start. You also may hand over your listening history, like recently played content, content saved in your music library, your top artists, and any playlists you’ve made and followed.

Where Spotify, Apple Music, and Others Stand

When you pre-save a song, it may look like the service you use, like Spotify, is the one requesting information about your account. But it’s not. At the top of the authorization dialog it will tell you which service, label, or company is making the request, and who’ll get your data when you accept.

Spotify, specifically, is in the process of revamping its API access to more closely monitor the type of information developers can request. A recent post on the company’s developer blog lays out some of the changes. Spotify confirmed in an interview with WIRED that it will be reviewing API requests and, by doing so, gives its stamp of approval for future uses of listening data.

The authorization pop-up that Apple Music shows is more vague, saying only that media library and listening activity will be shared. It’s not clear how involved and encompassing that access to a user’s Apple Music account is, and Apple did not comment on what specific information is included.

What About the Artists?

There’s a big reason artists push fans to pre-save upcoming releases: information. Both Spotify and Apple Music provide artists with dashboards for high level analytics about their music. Offering music to save in advance can allow artists to get more granular data on their fans, such as email addresses and other artists they enjoy listening to.

“I think overall it’s a way to build some excitement and give fans a call to action rather than just repeatedly saying ‘new song coming!’,” says Katelyn Tarver, a musician who has utilized the feature as a listener and as an artist. “And, if a lot of people pre-save a song, it can help boost your track’s first day streams, which helps your chances of getting picked up for other playlists on DSPs [Digital Service Provider], which can potentially really make or break your career.”

Tarver has a new single out, along with an upcoming album, and has seen the utility in pre-saving.

“It can help with having more insight into who is responding to your music, and it can help to know where your most committed fans are for when you start planning tours,” Tarver says.

But she said that asking her fans to do it can be a challenge.

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