The internet has changed the way that viewers consume content throughout various media platforms. Copious amounts of TV viewers have decided to unsubscribe from their cable services in exchange for a Netflix account. Dozens of newspapers across the country are going out of service as news consumers shift to consuming content online. The music industry has not been able to escape this pattern. Long gone are the days where music fans drive to the neighborhood record store to pick up a physical copy of an anticipated CD. Some artists do not even release physical CD’s for their projects. In 2016 the paradigm has shifted from physical, hardcopy releases backed by record companies to releasing music on music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal. Often times, these shifts from more traditional, to newer platforms are at the convenience to the consumer, however this new way of consuming media can also make it more difficult for consumers to access their desired products.
While Spotify is very much a household name and an industry leader, known for their excellent curated playlists, their main competitors Apple Music and Tidal have unique value propositions of their own: music exclusives Some of the planet’s most beloved artists such as Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Frank Ocean debut their albums exclusively on respective music streaming services. Many of the most popular artists align themselves with one streaming service to debut their material in exchange for an agreed amount of funding from the music service for albums, music videos and even tours. One of the more monumental moments in music streaming’s short lived history come in August, when Frank Ocean delivered a video album, Endless, to fulfill the terms of his contract with the label he was signed to, Def Jam/Universal, then gave an arguably superior album, Blonde, to Apple Music as part of an exclusive deal. In retaliation, Lucian Grange, Chief executive at the largest label in the world, Universal Music, sent out an eternal memo to all artists at the label stating that he is forbidding artists from releasing music exclusives with streaming services. Artists, labels and other streaming services alike have spoken out against music exclusives, arguing that it restricts a large population of music fans from hearing music by their favorite artists within a reasonable time frame. In retaliation, Spotify often blacklists artists who release music on exclusive platforms by excluding them from their popular playlists.
While there are is much outcry regarding the practices of exclusives on music, the benefits it has brought to the music industry are undeniable. In the last year, music labels have increased revenue by 8.1% (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/inside-the-war-over-album-exclusives-w443385 ) due to a decrease in albums “leaking” before the intended release date, a problem usually associated with printing physical CD’s.
Needless to say, exclusives may be driving a wedge between some artists and their labels.. Perhaps equally notable is Chance the rapper’s, Grammy nominated, independent album Coloring Book that debuted on Apple Music. This independent release signifies label’s weaning significance in the industry.
For now, there seems to be no clear solution on how to handle this mixed bag of complexity. Perhaps consumers will pay for multiple music subscriptions the same way many TV lovers have both Netflix and Hulu accounts. As a music lover myself, I can only hope that streaming services, artists, and labels will all be able to get on the same page to give the consumer the best product possible.