British band Coldplay is withholding its latest album, Mylo Xyloto, from all-you-can-listen streaming services such as Spotify and Rhapsody - making it the biggest band yet to express reservations about a system that pays artists a fraction of a penny every time someone listens to a song.
The decision for the hot-selling album, is a blow to such services, which have millions of tracks available but rely on new tunes to keep listeners interested.
Consumers typically pay US$10 a month for the right to pick any track or album from a library of millions and listen on demand via online streaming. Users can also download songs to mobile devices. Some services offer lengthy trials or free options with ads.
Usually, new tracks are available on the services on Tuesday, the same day they are released for sale.
The lack of availability of Coldplay's fifth album on subscription plans could push consumers to buy the album outright.
Coldplay's recording company, EMI, said in a statement "We always work with our artists and their management on a case by case basis to deliver the best outcome for each release."
Rhapsody president Jon Irwin said he respects the band's decision and needs to do a better job explaining the benefits of the subscription system to artists.
In an editorial he wrote for Billboard magazine on Monday, Irwin said he agreed that some reported royalties paid to artists - as low as 0.015 cents per play on Spotify and 0.91 cents on Rhapsody - "seem awfully small."
By comparison, recording labels and artists share about 70 percent of the US$1.29 per track or US$9.99 per album when music is bought on Apple Inc's iTunes.
Irwin argued that royalties from subscription music plans are recurring, not one-time as is the case with iTunes sales. Thus, he said, revenue will build over time.
And in any case, he said it is better than what artists get paid for pirated songs - zero.
"Those plays for that artist, they're going to get compensated by it," he said in an interview, "That goes on forever, and it doesn't end with the sale of an MP3" song file.
Spotify said in a statement that it also respects the decision of any artist regarding where their songs are made available.
But the company pointed out that its service has "convinced millions of consumers to pay for music again." Spotify said it has paid US$150 million to recording companies, artists and publishers since its launch three years ago.
Spotify has said it has more than 2 million paying customers globally, while Rhapsody is the leading service in the U.S. with more than 800,000 subscribers. Other popular subscription services include MOG and Rdio.
Early indications are that "Mylo Xyloto" will be one of the top-selling albums of the year. Its debut single "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" has racked up sales of 763,000 so far, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and Billboard estimates between 440,000 and 450,000 copies of the album will be sold through Sunday.
Coldplay's managers did not respond immediately to a request for comment.