Frank Ocean's Apple Music releases potentially mark beginning of end for streaming exclusives

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited August 2016
After four years out of the spotlight, Frank Ocean last week debuted not one, but two new albums on Apple Music. And while the rare double release delighted fans, it raised the ire of one of the world's biggest record labels, potentially marking the beginning of the end for streaming exclusives.




Music industry insider Bob Lefsetz, who runs an influential eponymous newsletter, on Tuesday reported that Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge sent out an email to his executives calling for an end to all future exclusives. A follow-up from Billboard suggests Grainge might have been reacting to Ocean's pair of releases over the weekend.

According to the Billboard report, Ocean fulfilled contractual obligations with record label Def Jam and its parent UMG with last Thursday's streaming visual album "Endless." A more traditional -- and monetizable -- 17-track album entitled "Blonde" hit Apple Music on Saturday, released under Ocean's own label Boys Don't Cry.

Def Jam reportedly shelled out some $2 million to fund "Blonde," previously thought to be called "Boys Don't Cry," though unknown parties paid that sum back to the label for rights to the recordings. The artist still had to fulfill his contract with Def Jam/UMG, however, and that's where "Endless" enters the picture. When the visual album debuted on Apple Music, some suspected it would be an accompaniment to Ocean's full-length album. Instead, the offering was an album in itself, leaving Ocean free to release -- and reap the proceeds from -- "Blonde" on Apple Music.

Whether or not Grainge's call for a global ban on streaming exclusives resulted from Ocean's play is unknown, as is the decision's impact on the wider music industry.

Exclusives have become common currency in the streaming game as companies like Apple and Tidal look for avenues to grow subscriber numbers. Priority access to hit albums is good for streaming providers, but whether the same can be said for artists and labels is up for debate. Billboard says many industry executives are aligned with Spotify in viewing exclusives as bad for business, citing piracy and customer segmentation as reasons for concern.

If major labels unite in solidarity against streaming exclusives, it raises the question as to what role Apple might play in the future of music. The iPhone maker can easily bankroll albums, completely cutting out the middleman distributors, but doing so would mean a dramatic shift in corporate strategy from content purveyor to content creator.

Apple dabbles in aspects of the creative process, most recently dedicating resources to collaborate on music videos with top artists. In fact, the in-house production unit is one facet of a larger initiative designed to attract chart toppers to Apple Music.

Whether big labels like Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group will fall in line behind UMG remains to be seen, but Grainge has seemingly cast the first stone in what could be a messy industry struggle.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    Control is an illusion.
    latifbplolliver
  • Reply 2 of 15
    A lot of artist will soon be following Frank's foot step. Chance the Rapper is a perfect example of how being an independent artist is more beneficial. Apple allows artist to be more creative with their projects and have a huge platform therefor artist will cut the middleman and just do business with apple or other stream serives...
    caliDeelronlolliver1983big
  • Reply 3 of 15
    stourquestourque Posts: 354member
    Record labels want to unite against sellers who compete against each other. Hmmm, sounds like collusion to me. I'm thinking the whole model of record labels is outdated and the sooner they're gone the better.
    Deelronlolliverbig
  • Reply 4 of 15
    Why are people complaining about the end of exclusives. Do you like being forced into paying for multiple streaming platforms just to hear music from 2 different musicians?
  • Reply 5 of 15
    Why are people complaining about the end of exclusives. Do you like being forced into paying for multiple streaming platforms just to hear music from 2 different musicians?
    I like the exclusives as long as they are Apple Music Exclusives. The others get it eventually. We just get it first. The artist gets more exposure too
    Deelronlolliverbig
  • Reply 6 of 15
    Literally in one breath: GIVE US A BETTER CUT.. while in another "AS WE GIVE YOU LESS."

    Seeing Universal give their artists next to nothing to produce their music video clips, including bigger acts which basically have to plead to their audiences over twitter to get a bit of music video clip funding, I think Universal are dreaming if they think they have any control over this sort of behaviour. If anything it's just going to drive artists away to more independent platforms. Meanwhile the idea that Universal care about independent acts is *expletive* hilarious. 
    Deelronlolliver1983pscooter63big
  • Reply 7 of 15
    If Apple became its own media label (music, movies, video series), it could do exclusives whenever it wanted.
  • Reply 8 of 15
    jakebjakeb Posts: 557member
    The idea that they're upset about exclusives is funny. They're upset artists are bypassing them and releasing straight to streaming. 
    lolliver1983squarebackbig
  • Reply 9 of 15
    croprcropr Posts: 935member
    markiezyy said:
    A lot of artist will soon be following Frank's foot step. Chance the Rapper is a perfect example of how being an independent artist is more beneficial. Apple allows artist to be more creative with their projects and have a huge platform therefor artist will cut the middleman and just do business with apple or other stream serives...

    An exclusivity means that there is no airplay on other streaming services. And because people only interested in a song if they have heard it a few times, there will be less people inclined to buy the record an go to concerts of the artist.  So in the long run these disadvantages are weighting much more that the pay check from the exclusivity provider.

    Netsky had after 2 months  less revenue from the album for which he had an exclusivity with Apple than from his previous album after 2 months.

  • Reply 10 of 15
    jax44jax44 Posts: 78member
    Isn't Grainge aligned with Amazon Music?.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    jensonbjensonb Posts: 528member
    That headline seems like a bit of a stretch when you read the article. Without much effort you could report the same sequence of events with the headline "Ocean's Apple Music releases potentially mark the end of the major record labels". Let's not call a drop of water from above a tropical storm.
    freerangebig
  • Reply 12 of 15
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,884member
    cropr said:
    markiezyy said:
    A lot of artist will soon be following Frank's foot step. Chance the Rapper is a perfect example of how being an independent artist is more beneficial. Apple allows artist to be more creative with their projects and have a huge platform therefor artist will cut the middleman and just do business with apple or other stream serives...

    An exclusivity means that there is no airplay on other streaming services. And because people only interested in a song if they have heard it a few times, there will be less people inclined to buy the record an go to concerts of the artist.  So in the long run these disadvantages are weighting much more that the pay check from the exclusivity provider.

    Netsky had after 2 months  less revenue from the album for which he had an exclusivity with Apple than from his previous album after 2 months.

    Flawed logic. One can not automatically assume a cause and effect relationship between the exclusive rights and less sales. Maybe the album just wasn't as good. Don't know. Never heard of Netsky, but it's happened before. It also depends on the exclusive and how much they are getting paid to be exclusive. If Apple, for example, pays a one time cost of a few million dollars for a 2-week exclusive, it may benefit the artist more regardless of whether they sell less in that 2-week period. I can see how permanent exclusives could be limiting, but some of the exclusives can create a lot of buzz and anticipation for general release.
  • Reply 13 of 15
    What Lucian Grainge is fuming about is majors like Universal losing established artists to Apple, Spotify etc. What musicians will do is use major record labels to get exposure, build an audience beyond their base, then at the end of the contract, jump ship to be independent. The label would lose all of that investment in promotion and exposure. No one signs to a major to sell records, because next to no-one buys singles and albums anymore. The money is in publishing, touring and exclusive deals with deep pockets (Target, Walmart, Apple, Spotify). It completely cuts out the major label middlemen.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,587member
    cropr said:
    markiezyy said:
    A lot of artist will soon be following Frank's foot step. Chance the Rapper is a perfect example of how being an independent artist is more beneficial. Apple allows artist to be more creative with their projects and have a huge platform therefor artist will cut the middleman and just do business with apple or other stream serives...

    An exclusivity means that there is no airplay on other streaming services. And because people only interested in a song if they have heard it a few times, there will be less people inclined to buy the record an go to concerts of the artist.  So in the long run these disadvantages are weighting much more that the pay check from the exclusivity provider.

    Netsky had after 2 months  less revenue from the album for which he had an exclusivity with Apple than from his previous album after 2 months.

    Was that because of the exclusive, or because the album wasnt as good? Regardless, 2 months is meaningless in the total life of an album if its truly any good.
    edited August 2016 mike1
  • Reply 15 of 15
    thisisasj said:
    What Lucian Grainge is fuming about is majors like Universal losing established artists to Apple, Spotify etc. What musicians will do is use major record labels to get exposure, build an audience beyond their base, then at the end of the contract, jump ship to be independent. The label would lose all of that investment in promotion and exposure. No one signs to a major to sell records, because next to no-one buys singles and albums anymore. The money is in publishing, touring and exclusive deals with deep pockets (Target, Walmart, Apple, Spotify). It completely cuts out the major label middlemen.
    All of that "investment" from the major labels is recoupable from the artists. So no loss there...
    If you treat your artists well, they will stay.
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