The music industry has been drastically changing over the years, and the rise of streaming platforms has played a significant role in this evolution. With musicians now having the option of releasing their music through digital platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and more, it is essential to choose the right platform that can give them the exposure and revenue they deserve.
In February 2016, Kanye West decided to release his album ‘The Life of Pablo’ exclusively on Tidal, the music streaming service that was co-owned by Jay-Z and a few other artists. The announcement came with a lot of hype, and West proclaimed that his album would “never never never be on Apple, and it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal.” While this decision may have initially seemed like a smart move, it ultimately backfired for the rapper.
The first consequence of this decision was the surge of illegal downloads on torrent channels. According to TorrentFreak, over half a million people downloaded a pirated copy of ‘The Life of Pablo’ just a day after its release. Although this may not have affected West’s revenue directly, it did show that fans were willing to turn to piracy if they couldn’t access his music legally.
Another issue was that many of Kanye’s fans were already using other streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify. This meant that they couldn’t access the album on their preferred platforms, which resulted in them not listening to the album at all. This was a significant loss for the rapper, as he missed out on a large chunk of potential listeners.
However, the decision to keep ‘The Life of Pablo’ exclusive to Tidal did benefit the streaming service itself. The app suddenly ranked number one on the iOS App Store, which was the first time that had ever happened. The album’s exclusivity to Tidal also helped to attract new subscribers to the service, which was a significant win for the company.
But the biggest problem with the Tidal exclusive release was that the platform refused to release streaming data to Nielsen Music, the company that measures music sales data. This made it impossible for Kanye to rank anywhere on the charts, especially since streams count towards positions. This was a significant issue for the rapper, as he missed out on a chance to have his album recognized as a commercial success.
In hindsight, Kanye West’s decision to keep ‘The Life of Pablo’ exclusive to Tidal may not have been the best choice. The album’s success was limited due to the exclusivity, and the refusal to release streaming data made it impossible to track the album’s success accurately. If Kanye had released the album on multiple platforms, it would have been widely available to his fans, and he could have reached a much broader audience.
The music industry is constantly evolving, and the rise of streaming platforms has made it essential to choose the right platform to release your music. While exclusivity deals may seem like a smart move on paper, they can ultimately limit your audience and success. Kanye West’s experience with ‘The Life of Pablo’ is a valuable lesson for musicians everywhere, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about releasing his next album.
(Photo by Pieter-Jannick Dijkstra, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic, cc by 2.0)