Back in November 2016 Music Ally wrote an article about how Laura Marling fans could pre-save her new album on Spotify. This was the first ever pre-save.
This functionality wasn’t (and still isn’t) an official Spotify tool, it was put together by David Emery (who now works at Apple Music) who was VP of global marketing strategy at Kobalt at the time. In a Music Ally follow up article David said “Their API lets you add releases to someone’s library if they authorise it,” “We’ve added a layer on top of that to do that when a future release comes out.”
Since that time we’ve seen Spotify pre-saves become almost standard as part of the pre-release strategy when artists release new music.
For anybody not familiar with Spotify pre-saves they make up a marketing tool whereby fans of an artist can pre-save a future release from their favourite artists. By pre-saving it the song will appear in their Spotify library (and/or a user’s playlist) the minute it’s released. But more than that the tool typically also “follows” that artist in Spotify, hence building up their fan base and it also collects the users email address. So from an artist’s point of view not only do you get new fans and immediate distribution of your music but you can also collect those all important email addresses.
Here’s what a typical pre-save campaign looks like. This one was built using Feature.fm who offer what I think is the best pre-save tool on the planet.
But here’s the thing, despite the pre-save tool being an almost universally adopted tool for new releases globally, it isn’t a native Spotify feature. Artists can’t log into the excellent Spotify for Artists control panel and create a pre-save themselves. Nor are pre-saves tracked or recognised in any official stats provided by the company. It simply doesn’t exist. Instead, the pre-save campaigns you see everywhere from labels, distributors and marketing agencies are all hacks that use the Spotify API to create the tool. All that pre-saves do is ask users to grant permission from the user to manipulate their Spotify library. That’s it. It’s a workaround, a clever one but it’s a workaround. That’s why you don’t see a “click here to pre-save” anywhere in the official Spotify app.
Up until mid 2018 pre-saves where only available for Spotify but that changed when Apple Music released pre-adds for albums in June 2018. Shortly after they made pre-adds available in the official Apple MusicKit API. Perhaps sensing an opportunity to differentiate itself from Spotify, Apple Music adopted pre-adds as an official tool for artists and labels to use.
Then in March of this year Lewis Capaldi and Apple Music released this video explaining exactly how pre-adds work. Shortly after it was announced that Lewis’ album was the most pre-added album on Apple Music in the UK ever with 113,000 pre-adds.
Then a week later we saw a similar announcement that Billie Eilish’s debut album had achieved over 800,000 pre-adds globally on Apple Music, breaking records.
What I found really interesting was in that same article on Music Business Worldwide, Apple Music’s Oliver Schusser said…
“While most services focus the majority of their efforts around playlists, Apple Music still emphasizes albums because we understand their value as a storytelling tool for artists to create context around their music.
“To that end, pre-adds are great early indicators of engagement around an artist and the intention of the fans. To actively pre-add an album, much like the pre-order we invented with iTunes, means that the fan is excited about the content and wants to be among the first to enjoy it the moment its available. That kind of engagement is very valuable to an artist and to us.”
Not only was that statement a dig at Spotify for perhaps focusing too much on playlists and not on albums. It was also the start of Apple Music’s ambition to own pre-adds by referencing and relating them to pre-orders which they did indeed invent in the iTunes days.
Then just yesterday there was yet another Apple Music pre-add announcement, this time talking about how Taylor Swift’s new album has broken day one records for a female artist. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see more of these announcements from Apple Music as they position themselves as the inventors of the pre-add and make it an industry standard.
Which begs the question, why haven’t Spotify released an official pre-save function themselves?
I have no idea if I’m honest. I’ve heard whispers that Spotify have experimented with an official pre-add functionality but for some reason they have never released one. Might they now that Apple Music have released a similar official function on their platform? I hope so. The fact that pre-saves/pre-adds are becoming more and more common, unavoidable in fact must surely be noticed by Spotify. Spotify have a really slick Spotify for Artists tool and an official analytics package for labels, it would fit nicely in both.