As we previously reported, Frank Ocean’s brand new album Blonde is cleaning up in the praise department, but if it seems like his visual album Endless is already an afterthought, there may be a reason for that.
Several outlets have reported that Endless served as the end of Ocean’s contractual obligation with Def Jam, making Blonde the GRAMMY award-winner's first release as a newly-independent artist.
While neither Frank or Def Jam have confirmed these reports, Apple Music does have Blonde listed as an independent release under the label Boys Don’t Cry, which, as FADER pointed out, could either be the name of Frank’s new independent venture, or just a placeholder for the time being. Whatever the case may be, if Ocean and Def Jam are no more and this highly-anticipated album was released independently, this could mark a major turning point in the artist-label relationship.
This move by Frank, along with other high-profile artists like Chance The Rapper eschewing an increasingly defunct major label system altogether, could easily inspire countless others to take the same route and cut out the middle man. But how, exactly, would that work?
A sensible, even plausible solution can be found in the recent trend of exclusive streaming releases, like Frank’s Apple-exclusive Endless project. Imagine a musical climate where services like Apple Music and TIDAL now act as the labels themselves, offering budgets for the creation of projects that will be available exclusively through their platform. While the practice of windowing is horrible for fans who don't want to subscribe to multiple platforms or who cannot afford the cost of a subscription to a single platform, given the ubiquity of their services and the sheer size of their library, artists would be able to call all of the shots. This would mean 100% creative control, no label-mandated delays, and the prospect of fewer awful, radio-motivated single selections.
An upcoming shift in practice and philosophy may not go exactly as detailed above, but make no mistake - a shift is occurring one way or another. We’re entering a new era of artist empowerment, and a more direct fan-artist connection than we’ve ever witnessed before. However the logistics end up working out, we’re seeing the ball bounce into the artist's court for the first time in recent memory, and that turn of events alone is incredibly encouraging.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
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