Spotify and Apple Music’s pre-saves are the new digital download pre-order. In the days of iTunes, you would pre-order an album or single and it would appear in your library when the project was released. Now that is happening with streaming pre-saves, where the song will be added to your library of music. This may seem super convenient, however there is a part of this that should make you not want to pre-save anything.
As reported by Billboard and a dirty secret in the industry for some time, Spotify and the labels that you pre-save from are collecting a vast amount of data. According to Billboard, Sony Music seems to be among the worst of the batch.
When you pre-save a song by H.E.R & YBN Cordae titled “Racks,” they have the right to see your email, your public playlists and your subscription. They also see your activity on Spotify, your top tracks and what you have recently played. Then they can manage who you follow on Spotify, create playlists and add / remove items from your library (which makes sense to add the pre-saved song to your library). Often these labels use third parties like feature.fm, which then also have access to your data and account. As we have seen in the past, it is often the third party that is the weak link in data protection, so be wary of giving your data to too many parties.
These permissions are there for everyone to see, however, they are hidden behind drop down menus, so there is some slight of hand involved.
For a Little Mix campaign, Sony asked for 17 permissions, including the “add and remove items in Library.” They can track the device you are listening, in addition to “control Spotify on your device” and “stream and control Spotify on your other devices.”
This isn’t just happening with the majors. I scoured the web for a few more pre-save permissions and dance music labels were collecting large swaths of data.
Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings asks for 13 additional permissions on their Dr. Phunk campaign, including what device you listen to and the ability to edit playlists.
Dim Mak has a similar policy with 12 additional permissions for their upcoming Godlands campaign. Ninja Tune gathers the same data for their !!! Wallop album campaign. Monstercat gather about the same data on their Slushii “Far Away” campaign.
Spinnin Records across two upcoming release campaigns for a song on Heldeep Records and one by Afrojack, Icono Pop and Yves V has 17 additional permissions including giving the label the control of Spotify on your devices.
Many house and techno labels I looked at didn't have pre-saves as they could be more focused on exclusive deals with digital download vendors and a fanbase that still does buy some music.
Other services offer pre-saves, but have different policies. Apple Music does not share identifying info about users, though it does give labels access to music libraries, the ability to modify playlists. It does not allow outside parties to control an account or get email addresses.
It is no secret that data is king and more and more companies seek to get as much data as possible to better target products to customers. Pre-saves allow for big first week chart numbers when a lot of people sign up. It is convenient for consumers and good for the labels. It is true that consumers can remove these permissions at any time, but it is unlikely many of them are constantly going through and removing access. We accept that some parties will have access to our info, but we expect it to be within reason.
The amount of data that is collected is worrying. They only need to add songs to your library. Seeing what you listen to, potentially create and edit playlists is another manner and then controlling Spotify on various devices is potentially overstepping boundaries consumers want in a world increasingly concerned with privacy.