It seems that as the entire industry starts to accept that streaming exclusives are not in any way productive, one particular artist is digging his gold plated heels in with a Tidal exclusive. That’s right, JAY-Z (complete with new caps and hyphen) will release new ‘visual album’ 4:44 exclusively on the platform he founded, on June 30th.
The wind has been blowing in a certain direction on streaming exclusives for some time- Taylor Swift recently decided that her back catalogue and Spotify can be friends after all and Drake, who has a long-standing commercial relationship with Apple, chose to release his latest ‘mix tape’ album ‘More Life’ on other streaming platforms and it broke streaming records. Labels, artists and even the streaming services themselves are backing off and Lord Lucian Grange declared from on high that Universal would be more or less outlawing such deals last year.
In other words, exclusives are thankfully more or less over, unless that is you founded a streaming service that isn’t performing very well and want to inflate its value before selling it on. Tidal is struggling in the crowded streaming market- it last reported subscriber figures of 3m in March 2016.
The deal is being done in partnership with the US mobile company Sprint, which by sheer coincidence just happened to acquire a 33% stake in Tidal at the beginning of this year. 4:44 will also be made available to Sprint’s 60 million customers in the US.
The motivation is understandable but The Gen must question the wisdom of such a move- while it will no doubt increase the value of Tidal in the short term and make it a bit riper for a potential sale, surely such an approach diminishes the overall impact and reach of the release. All that such an approach did for Kanye was to shoot ‘The Life of Pablo’ straight to the top of the piracy charts, resulting in a climb down from the claim that it would “never” appear on Apple and hasty appearances on Apple Music alongside other streaming platforms. One suspects that all of this will be replicated by the JAY-Z release and it seems a somewhat desperate move to prop up the business.
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