Apple Music Refuses to Stop Industry-Killing Exclusives

Apple Music hands Chance the Rapper $500,000 for an exclusive
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Apple Music hands Chance the Rapper $500,000 for an exclusive
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Image by Thomas Galvez (CC by 2.0)

What happens when you throw $500,000 in a musician’s face?  Well, they usually take it.  But that doesn’t make it healthy for the music industry or music fans.

And so we had another giant bombshell over the weekend.  Chance the Rapper received $500,000 from Apple for making Coloring Book an iTunes and Apple Music exclusive.  We know that because the rapper told us that.

Here’s what he revealed:

“I never felt the need to correct folks on my relationship with [Apple] but now that more people have tried to discredit my independence,” Chance the Rapper tweeted.  “I wanna clear things up.

“[Apple] gave me half a mil and a commercial to post Coloring Book exclusively on Apple Music for 2 weeks.”

“That was the extent of my deal, after 2 weeks it was on SoundCloud for free.  I needed the money and they’re all good people over there.

“I feel like if I didn’t clear it up people would keep trying to discredit all the work we did to make Coloring Book what it became.”

Apple hasn’t responded.  But you can believe what you want.  We’re gonna go with Chance the Rapper.

And $500,000?  Tidal couldn’t afford that.  Spotify is strapped to the hilt.  And Apple has billions in a savings account.  Guess who wins that one?

If you’re Chance the Rapper, you’re also a big winner, for obvious reasons. And nobody can fault an independent rapper for taking the cash (especially when he then gives one million dollars to help a failing Chicago public school system).

But there are two giant groups that aren’t winning here: music fans, and the music industry.  In fact, both are getting the serious shaft.

Music fans, because the music they want isn’t available where they want it.  So, after subscribing to a competitor like Spotify, they are effectively punished for supporting the music industry.

And the music industry, because pissed-off fans feel slighted by the system and start going back to piracy.  That could be the Pirate Bay, or maybe an increasingly-vilified YouTube downloader.  Either way, the money bleeds out of a growing streaming music infrastructure, and into a piracy channel that is absolutely, positively guaranteed not to pay royalties to anyone.

Apple, you’re being a douche.  Exclusives make you look short-sighted and selfish.  The music  industry hates them.  Music fans hate them.  In fact, everyone except Apple Music subscribers and the artist you’re paying hates them.

People aren’t going to quit Spotify to get a Chance the Rapper album.  They’d rather steal it.  Instead, use the $500,000 (or $5 million) to invest in a competitive feature, a budding artist career, or a sound fidelity enhancement.

Let users decide which services wins based on features, not industry-killing exclusives.  And watch the streaming music space grow even faster than it is right now.

There’s room for more than one winner.

17 Responses

  1. Zog

    What’s the argument here? Why the sensational headline ?This is healthy for everyone. Can you please stop writing about issues that don’t matter to anyone.
    Apple has the money this keeps everyone at play.
    The artist needs the money.
    You get to write a sensational head line that know one cares about.

    Why not deal with subjects that affect musicians lives , like the Trump health care bill, tax rates and artist, how to help artist effectively grow and find an audience, it would also help you to find a larger audience.
    and find an audience

    • Remi Swierczek

      My Friend!
      We’re witnessing GIGANTIC MAGGOTS like AppleMusic, Amazon, Google, Spotify, Pandora, Sirius XM or TIDAL consuming $300B music industry CORPSE set into the suicide mode by UMG music business clowns!

      Sir L! Show your KNIGHTHOOD …or QUIT!

  2. Truth

    Same with movies I’m tired of the theatres having all the exclusives send them straight to those streaming movies sites! So everyone can get them right away!! YEAH! 🙂

  3. John Simson

    Zog: I completely agree with your points above. This is a hyperbolic headline that is 1) wrong and 2) pathetic. Would any of us complain that “Game of Thrones” is exclusive to HBO? Or that we need both Amazon Prime and Netflix to watch all of the new television programs being produced? And that’s forever, not for 2 weeks….okay, eventually some of it will show up in syndication.

    Imagine that Garth Brooks was offered $5 Million to sell his next CD to Wal-Mart on an exclusive basis – it would not be released for radio play, nor streamed online. You could only hear it when you went to Wal-Mart or were shopping on their website. Bad for Garth? Bad for the music business? Great for Wal-Mart traffic?

    We have to stop thinking about music releases the same way we did 20 years ago. This is a new business and artists should use every tool they have to increase their value in the marketplace. Making a fan go to Wal-Mart’s website, not that tough. Making a fan subscribe to a different service to access music – that’s competition which brings better products to consumers.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I’m actually not the only one making this argument. Some top execs at major labels have done the same. Restricted access = increased piracy.

      Hey, I’m not saying the artist shouldn’t cash the check. But that’s one lottery winner. A bigger, paid streaming industry means more royalties for artists.

      • Anonymous

        It’s true that restricted access = increased piracy. However, increased piracy is not necessarily a bad thing. The goal of the artist and label should to maximize revenue. If the artist is getting paid a significant chunk of money, and it’s more money than they would’ve made without the exclusive, who cares if more people pirate it?

        I do think that there has to be some legitimate means for fans without Apple Music accounts to access the music. They have to be made available as permanent downloads on iTunes and Amazon MP3 on day one. All exclusives should be exclusive solely with respect to interactive streaming subscription services. I think we need to get out of the mindset that if you have a streaming subscription service, you should never have to purchase any $1.39 tracks from iTunes again. We need to make permanent downloads relevant again, and we should not worry about any increased piracy that may result from it.

  4. Click bait

    What a dumb article. As mentioned in a previous comment, how is this different than exclusive content across Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. Spoiler alert: it’s not. The other idiotic aspect of this “article” (aka clickbait) is that this exclusive was released ALMOST A YEAR AGO. Has Apple done any exclusives in the last 3 months? I certainly can’t find any. Slow news day, I guess.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      But there are major differences between music and video content. And, I’m not so clear the TV/film model is perfect either.

  5. RockSolidBWalk

    “…because the music they want isn’t available where they want it.”

    People could just… you know… like…. wait two weeks.

  6. DavidB

    Spotify started all this, so they reap what they sow.

  7. Dan in Va

    Paul, this is not good work. First, Apple saved thematic industry from themselves and piracy. Would everyone like to have more money? Sure. Does the public want to pay more money? No. Frankly, Apple and Spotify getting people to move from “free” should be a huge plus. Spotify absolutely could do the same thing Apple is doing. Apple’s bank account doesn’t mean they get to do stupid things. If it creates an advantage in the marketplace, it isn’t like Spotify and their $8.5B+ valuation aren’t perfectly capable of responding. Either exclusives generate sales or they do not.

    Contrary to your statement, music fans (you know, the ones who actually pay for music) seem to like exclusives. As the poster above noted, Garth Books did very well with Walmart and sold more than any other artist when he did the exclusive. People bought his album.

    Streaming isn’t going to be an environment where you can 25 major players. Like everything else, the market will condense around a handful (3-5) players. That means the likes of Spotify, Pandora, Google, and Amazon competing against Apple. I’ll submit that while Apple wants to make a profit, they still have done more for artists that their competitors.

    No, Apple isn’t a douche because they want to compete in the market. Interesting that in the article you wrote the next day about Spotify signing artists to their label (more than an exclusive) didn’t seem to warrant any criticism. But false analysis, hypocritical stories, and vile attacks from a “writer” probably would fit the slang better. I think I’ll just go with “troll” though.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Huge clarification should me made. A Spotify label would not necessarily cut music off from other services. It would only give Spotify a better royalty deal (because, they own the royalty).

      Other services would have to pay full royalty (on par with deals with someone like WMG).

      Within two years, Spotify could potentially become the fourth major label. That’s powerful stuff.

    • Bob

      Resnikoff is killing his own website with more fake news. There is no longer any effort here to do actual reporting about digital music. It’s either fake news, simplistic unresearched and unsubstantiated opinions from Resnikoff (who seems to be an expert of nothing), or cut-and-paste snippets from other online resources.

  8. Versus

    This makes no sense. No one is getting hurt by this.
    “Music fans, because the music they want isn’t available where they want it. So, after subscribing to a competitor like Spotify, they are effectively punished for supporting the music industry.”

    Why should music fans get the same music everywhere? You get what you pay for. Consider film and TV: Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes Store, etc. all have different and exclusive film and TV content. Similarly cable TV channels. Should I cry and scream because I can’t watch Amazon-produced shows on Netflix? Or that movies are first available in theaters and then only streaming after a delay of months? Why should the music industry be held to a different standard?

    If you want it all, then get it all. I pay for subscriptions to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple Music, and Spotify, among others. It’s a great deal for an incredible amount of music, film, and TV, and very convenient. (And I still buy music that I really love, in CD, vinyl, and digital download formats). It’s the least I can do to support the creators who enrich my life with their work. Even all that added together costs less per day than a coffee or two at your local café, and gives far more lasting satisfaction.

  9. Will Buckley

    Freemium and piracy continues to kill the music business. To make complete new releases available avaialable on day of release is leaving a billion dollars+ of additional revenue on the table is bad business.

    Take a look at the book biz. They bucked Amazon who wanted tried to force Hachette into Ebook day and date release lost the battle, printed book sales continue to increase annually.

  10. Stacey

    I respectfully disagree with this article. If the album was destined to go up on Soundcloud for free, I doubt Chance would have an issue with fans who were so excited about the record that they couldn’t wait 2 weeks and pirated it. I also think that Apple music users probably felt very cool as a result of the exclusive access, while users of other platforms probably felt a little less satisfied with their current service.