Universal Might Ban Streaming Exclusives After Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’ Album
Two new reports from Buzzfeed and Billboard have surfaced today with new details from anonymous sources about the turmoil between Frank Ocean, Apple Music and Universal Music Group.
Buzzfeed spoke to an anonymous source who said Universal is only looking to halt exclusive streaming deals that last for a week or more. "Our view is that giving exclusives to individual streaming platforms for long periods of time is not good for the artist, it’s not good for the fans, and it limits the commercial opportunity for everybody involved,” said the source. Windows of exclusivity like the one YG's Still Brazy enjoyed on Apple Music, which was only for two days, seem safe for now but may also be discontinued in the future.
“Was it good for Rihanna to put one of the best records she’s recorded in the last
decade exclusively on Tidal? I don’t know," the source tells Buzzfeed.
Meanwhile, Billboard talked to a source who says UMG might have grounds to sue Frank Ocean for releasing his independent album Blonde so soon after Def Jam's Endless. Billboard also muses that Ocean might have paid Def Jam the $2 million that the label reportedly spent for him to make his new album so that he could walk away after releasing Endless, but the label might not have known he'd be releasing another album the very next day. Due to a potential clause in Frank's contract that might bar him from releasing a new album so quickly after his last one for Def Jam, the label might be able to sue him for the surprise release of Blonde.
Following the release of Frank Ocean's highly-anticipated new album Blonde, Universal Music Group has announced that they plan to end all streaming exclusives for the artists. Blonde is an Apple Music exclusive, and UMG CEO Lucian Grainge reportedly has ordered his company to end the new industry practice, The Guardian reports.
According to industry insider Bob Lefsetz, Grainge released a company-wide email on Monday (Aug. 22) making the announcement. Lefsetz voices a wide-spread notion that these exclusives only benefit the streaming service “because there’s a conspiracy between Apple Music and the industry to change the game, to get everybody to pay for a subscription by putting hit content behind a paywall.”
In an industry newsletter, Lefsetz takes Ocean to task for the move, writing, “Shame on you Frank, and shame on everybody else who takes money from Apple and screws fans. There’s enough money in music without taking every last buck, and the joke is on you, for thinking so short term, you want your music available to everybody, because in these days of information overload we need nobody, everybody is superfluous, you don’t want to enter the marketplace with one hand tied behind your back."
The practice of creating streaming exclusive albums creates an issue of accessibility, as Lefsetz points out. With the popularity of such services however, artists often receive fractional royalties, making such deals as the one Drake signed with Apple Music for a reported $19 million all the more attractive.
A former Apple Music employee Sean Glass refuted Lefsetz's claim of a "conspiracy" (if you know his writing, you're aware Bob can be a little hyperbolic), saying, “Contrary to what you read, there’s no scary Apple board room conspiracy where corporate is plotting to take over creativity via artist exclusives.
“There’s one guy who is behind ALL of these campaigns — and he is light years ahead of everyone else. He works intimately with each artist as a creative peer, and develops an amazing plan, this is no simple land grab.
“He works closer with the artists than labels do.”
That last sentence is telling, because Glass is talking about Larry Jackson, the Head of Content at Apple Music. He's been securing these deals with artists, so it might not be a "conspiracy," but with huge Apple Music exclusives like Drake's Views, Chance The Rapper's Coloring Book and now Frank's album, it certainly looks like a large-scale plan is in the works. Add in the fact that Blonde was released "independently," and it makes you wonder whether Apple is trying to sign artists directly while cutting out labels.
Fans React to Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond’ Album