In the past few weeks, Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal has secured two high-profile “exclusives,” from Rihanna and Kanye West. Both catapulted Tidal up the download charts, with the new Kanye album landing it in the No. 1 spot.
This seems like good business in the short-term, but not everyone agrees that it’s good for fans or artists.
Spotify, in particular, has come forward criticising the practice.
“We’re not really in the business of paying for exclusives, because we think they’re bad for artists and they’re bad for fans,” Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s head of communications told The Verge. “Artists want as many fans as possible to hear their music, and fans want to be able to hear whatever they’re excited about or interested in — exclusives get in the way of that for both sides. Of course, we understand that short promotional exclusives are common and we don’t have an absolute policy against them, but we definitely think the best practice for everybody is wide release.”
Pandora, while not overtly critical, hasn’t exactly embraced exclusives either.
Pandora CPO Chris Phillips told Business Insider that when he thinks about exclusives, it’s mostly around things like live events, not recordings. “I do think that there’s an opportunity, for example, to have a live-streaming event that could be kind of exclusively on a platform,” he said.
But as far as having an album that exclusively exists on one streaming service, like Kanye’s has so far (Rihanna’s is now widely available), Phillips doesn’t think it makes much sense for artists.
“I think on the artist incentive side, it’s pretty tough to keep your music on just one service, because you’re limiting your reach, especially if you’re a new artist.”
The big change with Tidal might be equity. Both Kanye and Rihanna own an undisclosed piece of the company, and we don’t know what kind of deal Jay Z offered them for exclusivity, permanent or temporary.
Kanye might also be getting other benefits besides equity and Jay Z’s goodwill. According to Kanye’s Twitter, Tidal is funding a lot of his “scripted content ideas.”