Apple Music is cutting back on one of its defining characteristics: album exclusives. In a recent interview with Music Business Worldwide, Apple exec Jimmy Iovine said that the streaming service plans to be less aggressive about obtaining exclusives in the future. “We tried it,” he said. “We’ll still do some stuff with the occasional artist. The labels don’t seem to like it and ultimately it’s their content.”
Back in 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that labels were losing enthusiasm for streaming service exclusives, which they felt could be detrimental to an album’s overall streaming numbers. If a new album was only available on one particular platform for the first two weeks of its existence, as Apple Music’s exclusives were, it could result in lost revenue for labels.
After Frank Ocean released his much-anticipated album Blonde independently on Apple Music last year, the CEO of Universal Music Group reportedly told the company’s labels to stop making exclusive deals with streaming networks. As Business Insider points out, Kanye West was also vocally against exclusives. Last year he tweeted that the streaming wars were “fucking up the music game.”
In the past, musicians who signed exclusives with Apple Music were given a big marketing push, but it’s hard to quantify how effective it was at drawing listeners, especially since Apple has a much smaller subscriber base than Spotify. In 2016, Drake’s Views broke several records as an Apple Music exclusive, but Drake has consistently been a top-played artist on Spotify as well.
Still, Apple Music isn’t entirely done with exclusives. Iovine notes that the service will still do “some” streaming exclusives, and that Apple is putting “a lot of money” into exclusive video now.