When Jay-Z (and his business partners) launched Tidal, the multiple- platform based media company, it started out slow. It lost millions in the beginning, and critics had a field day. Now, after Jay-Z’s “little brother” Kanye exclusively streamed his (classic) album release party and fashion show (for his futuristic slave gear), and released his latest album only on Tidal, things are looking up for the company. (Kanye even stated that he won’t even offer his album for sale; it will only be available on Tidal. That would definitely be a game-changer.)
Last year, Canadian rap superstar, Drake, signed a reported $19 million dollar deal with Apple Music as they launched their streaming platform that would compete with Tidal. The deal contracted Drake to release exclusive content on iTunes, which included his own radio mix where he “DJ”‘s, as well as an exclusive album. Apple has been laughing to the bank with their new venture. However, in the streaming game, things can get tricky, as it was proved last year when Apple threatened to sue Tidal for $20 million if they streamed a live streaming performance of Drake at a charity concert thrown by Lil’ Wayne (whom Drake is also signed to through his Young Money record label.) Situations like this make the streaming trend a bit tricky from a business perspective. For example, who gets the tie in a “non-compete” clause?
From a consumer perspective, the fans ultimately lose out. Streaming will undoubtedly get larger, and take on a higher percentage of the entertainment market, and streaming companies will invent new ways to ensure their content remains exclusively on their respective formats. This will eventually alienate artists from their fans, who are typically on a fixed income, and are forced to choose only one of the streaming services. This will, in turn, affect recorded “album” sales, which will affect awards, which will affect the amount of recording contracts for future artists. Ultimately, a new generation of fans will be deprived of quality music that pushes the culture forward (like Yeezy’s new album.) One benefit of the popularity of streaming is the quickness in which artists can get new music to a thirsty legion of fans. But can those fans get to the music though?
On the flip side, Adele refused to stream her latest release, and broke sales records in the process. She received a lot of backlash in the process but, she stuck to her guns and proved her detractors wrong. To be clear, though, Adele has a different fan base that can support her stand against streaming. There is only one Adele in the music industry. For everyone else, streaming has changed the way we consume our music. Will it be for better or worse?
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