Has Apple Music truly given up on the bane of the music industry – streaming exclusives?
Several years ago, to promote its fledgling streaming music service, Apple engaged in a now-taboo business practice. At least within the confines of the music industry.
In exchange for an undisclosed sum of money, artists would release their works exclusively on Apple Music. At least for a few weeks. Others played a similar game, including Tidal. The Jay-Z upstart housed its own series of exclusives, including Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
(Keep in mind that Kanye West is now fighting a class action lawsuit over the ultimately non-exclusive album.)
The business practice eventually reached its peak with the release of Frank Ocean’s albums Endless and Blonde. After releasing Blonde, Ocean ripped up his contract with Universal Music Group (UMG), leaving the label for good.
Shortly thereafter, UMG CEO Lucian Grainge stated that the label wouldn’t release any more timed exclusive albums. Former Spotify executive Troy Carter also stated that the unpopular business practice hurt the music industry as a whole.
Exclusive albums have since gone the way of the dodo. Amazon Music may not have gotten the message, however. As part of its ‘Amazon Originals,’ the e-commerce giant exclusively released Awolnation’s 2018 album, Here Come the Runts. Eventually the album made its way onto Spotify, Apple Music, and other platforms.
Meanwhile, streaming platforms are still differentiating themselves with exclusives. Just not those directly involving albums and singles. Just recently, Apple Music has started churning out documentaries for high-flying artists like Ed Sheeran, while also focusing on differentiated products like Beats 1.
Now, one artist has explained how he missed out on a very lucrative streaming exclusive deal with Apple Music.
What could’ve been for Chance the Rapper…
Two years ago, Apple Music approached Drake with an interesting offer.
The Canadian rapper would create his next album and offer it to Apple for a cool $20 million. In exchange, Apple Music would exclusively stream the album for two weeks.
The move apparently proved successful. Apple scored over a million new subscribers, reportedly recovering the money in just sixty days.
But, Apple Music apparently couldn’t successfully court every musician. At least, not on time.
Speaking on The Joe Budden Podcast, Chance the Rapper pushed back against Joe Budden’s accusations he isn’t truly an indie artist. Budden had claimed the rapper’s ‘exclusive’ relationship with Apple has disqualified him.
According to Chance the Rapper, Apple Music had actually offered him $20 million before eventually settling with Drake.
“Drake had a deal with Apple for a long time where he was their main artist, and he put up a couple projects on [Apple Music] for exclusives. And they gave him way more money than they gave me! But I get it, Drake’s a way bigger artist than me.”
Under the deal, Chance would’ve received $20 million in exchange for two exclusive projects. He would’ve dropped Surf and Coloring Book on Apple’s fledgling service. But, the company apparently wanted a “solo Chance project,” which he didn’t have. During that time, he had worked on Surf with his band.
Explaining that he hadn’t really appeared on that album, Chance said,
“So you could understand why they wouldn’t want that… or throw the money that they gave to Drake at that.”
He convinced Apple executives to put Surf on the iTunes Store for free, “the first time they ever did this.” Yet, this undisclosed meeting apparently happened before the launch of Apple Music.
“They told me in the meetings, ‘There’s something that we’re gonna drop that’s gonna be crazy. It’s gonna take the old iTunes library, it’s gonna put that s—t in the trash.’ And it was Apple Music—I didn’t know about that s—t at the time.”
But, why hadn’t Chance the Rapper struck an exclusive deal with Apple Music? He didn’t finish Coloring Book on time.
“It was off time, so I got $500,000 and the $500,000 was in the midst of what they called the ‘streaming wars,’ so all these different platforms were fighting to put content on their [platform] for a certain number of weeks first…”
Chance hadn’t uploaded his works on TIDAL and Spotify by this time. Apple executives aimed to keep it that way.
“They came to me, they said, ‘Here’s some money,’ which I used for advertising, ‘and we’ll put you in a commercial, and two commercials during the NBA finals.’ And that was what it was.”
Of course, you can now find Chance the Rapper’s works available on multiple streaming platforms. So, at the end of the day, Chance earned $500,000 for a timed exclusive and Apple Music earned subscribers. A win-win for everyone, right?
Featured image by Julio Hernandez (CC by 2.0).