Apple is leaning away from a music strategy that’s disliked by labels and Kanye West – Business Insider
Apple Music has reversed course on a controversial business
strategy that left many in the industry with a sour taste in
their mouths, according to Apple exec and music industry titan
The idea of paying artists for “exclusives,” or windows
when their albums appear only on a specific streaming
service — like Apple Music, Spotify, or Tidal — has been hotly
debated over the last year.
Apple Music initially made it a significant piece of the
company’s strategy, snagging high-profile exclusives from the
likes of Drake, Frank Ocean, and Chance the Rapper. Jay Z’s
Tidal, a smaller player, went full-throttle as well, getting
Rihanna, Beyonce, and Kanye West. But market leader Spotify
came out swinging against the practice, declaring it bad for
both artists and fans.
Now Apple Music seems to be leaning away from exclusives.
“We tried it,” Iovine said of exclusives in a
new interview with Music Business Worldwide. “We’ll still do
some stuff with the occasional artist. The labels don’t seem to
like it and ultimately it’s their content.” Later in the
interview Iovine said that, generally, Apple Music didn’t
want to disrespect or hurt record companies.
Kanye’s tough decision
The music industry sentiment toward exclusives shows how
different the market for streaming video — i.e. Netflix — is from
that of streaming music. Exclusive content has become the
centerpiece for all the major video players, from Netflix to Hulu
to Amazon Prime Video. It’s what defines the brand and wins
Not so in music, where it has gotten a bad reaction from
many labels and artists.
Last year, Universal’s CEO
reportedly told the company’s labels to stop making exclusive
deals with streaming services.
Kanye West also spoke out last year about the trouble the
practice caused him in the lead-up to his latest album.
Before the release of “The Life of Pablo,” West was “in the
[Apple Music] building all the time,” a former Apple Music
staffer told Business Insider. That person said the general
feeling was that Apple Music would get an exclusive window on his
new album. But West was caught between his relationship with Jay
Z, who owns much of Tidal, and Larry Jackson, Apple Music’s head
of content. (West also owns an undisclosed portion of Tidal
along with some other heavyweight artists.)
West ended up giving the exclusive window to Tidal instead
of Apple Music, but it wasn’t a decision that came easily, it
“This Tidal Apple beef is f——- up the music game,” West
wrote on Twitter last year. “I need Tim Cook Jay Z Dez Jimmy
Larry me and Drake Scooter on the phone or in a room this week!!!
F— all this d–k swinging contest. We all gon be dead in 100
Years. Let the kids have the music. Apple give Jay his check for
Tidal now and stop tying to act like you Steve [Jobs].”
West was likely referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Jay Z, Jimmy
Iovine, Larry Jackson, Apple Music-aligned rapper Drake (who
signed a $19 million deal with Apple in 2015), and music
mogul Scooter Braun.
While West might not get his wish for Apple to buy Tidal, a move
away from exclusives could make the release process less fraught
for superstar artists trying to weigh up-front cash against
maximum initial reach.