2016 has been the year of the streaming service exclusive, but not everyone is on board. As Apple Music (Drake, Frank Ocean) and TIDAL (Kanye West, Beyonce, Rihanna) have battled for market share using popular mainstream album releases as bait, Spotify has so far opted to simply bury musicians who sign exclusive deals.
In an interview with The Verge in February, Spotify’s head of communications, Jonathan Prince, explained that exclusives are bad for both artists and fans and that the company had no plans to get into the business of paying for them.
In agreement with Prince and Spotify is veteran music executive Lyor Cohen, co-founder of 300 Entertainment and the man who has been shepherding the career of Young Thug, who in a newly-published interview at Complex made clear his position on offering exclusives to streaming services:
I don’t believe in exclusives. I think it’s damaging to our industry. I believe in ubiquity. I don’t think streaming services should win or get a leg up because they have an exclusive. They should get a leg up because they’re the best consumer experience. It fractures the consumer experience if you sign up for Spotify or Apple or TIDAL or Rhapsody thinking that you’re getting most of the world’s music for $10. When one has an exclusive or another has an exclusive, it’s interrupting the process of paid subscription. And I don’t like it.
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While it's usually hard to get behind everything Cohen says, he's absolutely right. Plenty of artists will see that a newly-independent Frank Ocean reportedly banked a cool million in one week by exclusively releasing Blonde through Apple Music, but they should keep in mind that there is only one Frank Ocean and fans had to wait four years for his latest body of work.
For the majority of artists, those not named Frank, Kanye, Drake or Rihanna, the practice of windowing is a horrible experience for fans. As Cohen pointed out in his remarks, while the idea of a paid subscription makes sense, the practice of limiting a release to only one platform is completely anti-consumer. Could you imagine a movie studio agreeing to release a new film only to AMC-owned theaters for the first two weeks?
Universal, after being stiffed by Ocean's departure, has reportedly discontinued streaming exclusives with Apple Music, but the practice won't die as long as these services are cutting the biggest artists massive checks. Just ask Drake.
By DJ Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Justin Hogan / Complex News