The highly anticipated first solo track from the One Direction member, “Sign of the Times” was the top trending topic worldwide upon its debut at 8 a.m. London time on April 7 (and in the two hours leading up to Styles’ appearance on BBC radio), but initially was not found on Spotify either through search of the name “Harry Styles” or via the New Music Friday playlist, where it was set to appear.
The issue took less time to resolve on Spotify’s premium tier than the free tier, where well into Friday, users and fans were still experiencing problems locating the song or accessing Styles’ brand new artist profile. Spotify’s user base was last reported to be 50 million.
When contacted by Variety, a rep for Spotify confirms the glitch as “a technical issue for both Free and Premium,” adding, “There should be no further issue, though users unable to play this track need to reinstall the Spotify application to remove the cache.”
Many fans who went in search of the single elsewhere ended up at music video hub VEVO, where the lyric video for “Sign of the Times” racked up more than 6.4 million plays in 24 hours.
Data on multiple platform first-day streams has yet to be confirmed by Styles’ label, Sony Music subsidiary Columbia Records, which would not comment on the Spotify outage, but One Direction devotees were quick to voice their disappointment at a perceived disadvantage for Styles’ out-the-gate performance. After all, it was only a month ago that another beloved British singer, Ed Sheeran, shattered streaming records with the arrival of his latest album, ÷ (Divide), and single “Shape of You,” which logged 68.6 million streams and 10 million streams on Spotify in day one, respectively, upon release.
As for Styles, the singer’s team is expecting a second and subsequent waves of interest in “Sign of the Times,” as the Spotify community catches up, says a source, who adds that any judgment based on the first 24 hours is not an accurate reflection of the song’s impact, due to its absence from Spotify.
Indeed, the introspective rock ballad, which nods to such musical icons as David Bowie and The Beatles, has received glowing reviews thus far, with both fans and critics applauding Styles’ against-the-grain approach to pushing the traditional limitations of the pop format.
A look at its performance on iTunes shows an unqualified smash as “Sign of the Times” reached No. 1 in 82 countries and, according to an insider, beat label-mate Adele to the top spot on the iTunes singles chart by reaching the feat in 19 minutes (Adele’s “Hello” took an hour). Apple also didn’t encounter any issues with the Styles single on its streaming service, Apple Music, which last reported 20 million subscribers.
Still, the hiccup, which comes on the heels of a just-announced multiyear global licensing deal between Universal Music Group and Spotify, have some in the Sony Music orbit snickering that the Styles snafu was somehow instigated by the competition. But in all seriousness, says the Styles source, “In the grand scheme of things, what it did across the board was bonkers.”