Paul McCartney: Down Stream

The former Beatle snubs Rhapsody and other subscription services.

Paul McCartney "shocked" Rhapsody last week when the former Beatle pulled his music from the Seattle-based music subscription service on the same day he released his new album of standards, Kisses on the Bottom. We were shocked this week when his label, Concord, called McCartney and his managers "pro-streaming."

"This wasn't done because [McCartney's] people are anti-streaming," says Phillip Bailey, Concord's director of digital and mobile sales. "A lot of people like to bang on Spotify and streaming services. That is not what this is about. This is about how to best profile this catalog. Streaming is absolutely viable. I'm a huge proponent of it. Even McCartney's camp is."

When asked if the music was pulled at the request of McCartney's management, Bailey said he didn't want to point fingers. He did say, however, that McCartney's is the only Concord catalog not available for streaming, and that the move was made in part because McCartney's "management has decided they would really like to have some sort of unveiling" to mark the release of the catalog to subscribers. "They want, more than anything, to make it an event," Bailey says.

In other words: After pulling the catalog from Rhapsody subscribers who had been streaming it for four years, McCartney's management wants to make an event out of giving it back. Bailey says that day is most likely to come in the spring, sometime around the reissue of McCartney's second post-Beatles release, Ram.

McCartney's publicist declined comment, and at press time his manager had not yet responded to a request for comment.

When McCartney brought his solo and Wings catalogs to Concord from EMI in 2010, his new label chose to withhold a few key titles—such as Band on the Run and McCartney—that had previously been available on subscription services. At the time, Bailey said Concord intended to release the titles to subscribers in conjunction with planned CD reissues. "When you remove the existing titles, it creates a little bit of demand and anticipation for what is to come," Bailey told Seattle Weekly in 2010.

Rhapsody spokesperson Jaimee Minney says that McCartney's catalog of solo releases and recordings with Wings—such as McCartney II and Wingspan—ranked him 349th in terms of popularity on the service. She says the ranking is significant when you consider that he didn't have a major new release out. McCartney is the latest in a string of artists, such as the Black Keys and Coldplay, who have withheld music from subscription services, which have received heightened attention since the popular UK service Spotify entered the U.S. last year. But the Beatle's catalog is the highest-profile streaming holdout.

"What's great is that people are paying more attention to streaming services, and want to monetize them when they get popular," Minney says. "It's early days, and these are things that need to be worked out."

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