The producers of “The Passion” are treating Spotify in a very un-Christian way right now. The soundtrack to the modern-day retelling of the final days of Jesus Christ is currently available for download or streaming pretty much everywhere but the Swedish streaming music service, the latest sign that Spotify still bears a degree of stigma in the eyes of some music industry figures.
But those same producers are also paying a price. While a number of recent high-profile albums reached the top of the charts without Spotify’s help, “The Passion” soundtrack hasn’t gotten there yet, taking some air out of the idea that record labels can achieve top sales without that company’s streams.
“The Passion” and its soundtrack were supposed to be slam dunks. The show itself was an American adaptation of a concept that originated in Holland, where it’s turned into must-see TV: the 2015 broadcast captured 46 percent of the Dutch TV market, according to the production company that created it. And the soundtrack, spearheaded by the same company that gave birth to the TV-powered music success story “Glee,” boasted a bunch of vaguely Christian songs popularized by a bunch of vaguely Christian performers — Creed, Katy Perry, Lifehouse and so on — performed by a star-studded group of artists, including Trisha Yearwood, Seal and American Idol star Chris Daughtry.
While Anders Media co-founder Adam Anders intimated that he’s got more than one year to build up “Passion” stateside, its U.S. debut was rocky. Ratings on Sunday were ugly, likely pressed downward by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and “The Walking Dead.”
Similarly, the soundtrack, which was released last Friday, finds itself stuck in purgatory. The album is currently sitting at No. 13 on the Buzzangle album sales chart. Buzzangle’s chart rankings are based on a period that began on March 18, the day that “The Passion” soundtrack was released, and run through March 20, the day “The Passion” debuted.
Tallies of the full week will conclude Thursday night, and those next few days' worth of sales will be necessary to determine whether "The Passion" joins the ranks of releases that topped the charts after deliberately leaving all, or parts of their albums off Spotify in the days following release. A number of artists, including Coldplay, the 1975 and, most recently, Gwen Stefani have all decided that Spotify, whose CEO recently disclosed it now has 30 million paying subscribers, is better as a promotional vehicle than as an alternative place to consume music.
"The Passion" soundtrack's producers have apparently decided to follow the same strategy. Three songs from it have been available on Spotify since last week, though they are not exactly lighting the service on fire. Trisha Yearwood's version of "Broken" has been streamed just 40,000 times.
While neither the artists nor their teams have spoken in detail about their motivations, some point to the ad-supported tier of Spotify's service as a possible reason for their decisions. The royalty Spotify pays on streams that occur on its ad-supported service are significantly lower than the royalty rate paid on streams that happen on its subscription service, and artists seeking to maximize revenue right after release may want to avoid settling for smaller amounts of revenue. Unconfirmed reports surfaced in December that Spotify is considering making it possible for artists to keep their releases off its ad-supported tier.
Deepwell Records, Anders Media's record label, did not respond to a request for comment.