The Critic: I’m pay­ing Ap­ple $10 a month and miss­ing out on Lemon­ade and other buzzy al­bums

The hot­ter the al­bum, the less likely it is I’ll get to hear it By Devin Leonard

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - CONTENTS -

For many mu­sic lovers, the past few months have been a rev­e­la­tion. In Fe­bru­ary, Kanye West gave us The Life of Pablo, which the mer­cu­rial rap­per ini­tially un­veiled at a fash­ion show, chang­ing lyrics and shuf­fling guest stars up un­til the fi­nal hour. In late April, Beyoncé brought out Lemon­ade, a sonic flow­chart of her mar­i­tal dif­fi­cul­ties with hus­band Jay Z. Sev­eral weeks later, Radiohead re­leased A Moon Shaped Pool, a col­lec­tion of gor­geous melodies, symphonic back­drops, and ni­hilis­tic lyrics. All three al­bums ma­te­ri­al­ized with vir­tu­ally no warning, mak­ing their ar­rivals that much more con­ver­sa­tion-wor­thy.

But if you sub­scribe to Spo­tify, you may have felt as if you were miss­ing out. None of these al­bums were avail­able on the stream­ing ser­vice in the first weeks af­ter their re­lease, and Ap­ple Mu­sic users could stream Pool only in its en­tirety. You could sign up for a trial sub­scrip­tion on Tidal, the strug­gling mu­sic ser­vice Jay Z owns, which had all three al­bums on the days of their de­buts. (No sur­prise: Beyoncé and West are part own­ers.) It was a lot of trou­ble to go through, though, es­pe­cially if you planned to can­cel be­fore your trial pe­riod ended so you wouldn’t have to pay for Tidal on top of what you al­ready owe Spo­tify or Ap­ple.

Wasn’t the prom­ise of stream­ing ser­vices that I’d get all the mu­sic I want in one place? For me, the lure of them has never been ac­cess to Miles Davis’s Columbia cat­a­log. I’ve been col­lect­ing mu­sic for decades and have a hard drive full of down­loads, racks of CDs, and shelves of vinyl to show for it. I want to ab­sorb

Pablo while the in­ter­net is still con­sumed with Ye’s claim on the al­bum that he made Tay­lor Swift fa­mous. If Ap­ple Mu­sic can’t help me or the rest of its 13 mil­lion users join the dis­cus­sion when it’s white-hot, is it worth my $10? I’m sure some felt side­lined af­ter Prince died, too—none of his clas­sic al­bums can be streamed on Spo­tify or Ap­ple ei­ther.

Three ma­jor artists shun­ning Spo­tify, which has 30 mil­lion pay­ing users, in a three-month span sig­nals that mu­sic’s Next Big Thing might not be as big as we thought. In fact, the value of these ser­vices has been de­bat­able since at least 2014. That’s when Swift re­fused to re­lease

1989 on Spo­tify be­cause of a roy­alty dis­pute. (She’s since put her songs on Ap­ple Mu­sic and Tidal.) And last Novem­ber, Adele de­clined to make 25 avail­able to stream, say­ing the tech­nol­ogy didn’t move her. “It prob­a­bly is the fu­ture, but eh!” she told Rolling Stone. These were iso­lated notes, how­ever, not the cho­rus we have now. Thank­fully, West is—let’s be gen­er­ous—un­pre­dictable: “My al­bum will never never never be on Ap­ple,” he tweeted in Fe­bru­ary, be­fore al­low­ing

Pablo to ap­pear on Spo­tify and Ap­ple Mu­sic in early April, when no one re­mem­bered the thing about … wait, who did he say he made fa­mous?

Right now, log­ging on to a big stream­ing ser­vice can feel like go­ing to a Barnes & No­ble that sells ev­ery­thing but the most pop­u­lar ti­tles on the New York Times best-seller list. (If you liked The Cor­rec­tions, you’ll love Anna Karen­ina!) How long is this go­ing to last? For a while, it seems. In April, Drake re­leased his lat­est,

Views, as an ex­clu­sive on Ap­ple Mu­sic. So what if it sounds like some­thing he dashed off in the stu­dio one morn­ing af­ter a Toronto Rap­tors win. He’s the big­gest star in mu­sic; whether he drops a great al­bum or a mid­dling one, what he does can’t be ig­nored.

Big names in the mu­sic busi­ness have never been shy about try­ing to grab as much money as they can. They couldn’t spurn places like Tower Records—that’s where they made the most money. But now that the in­ter­net has frag­mented the old dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem, the Wests and Swifts have more lever­age. Should we be sur­prised they’re us­ing it?

The only so­lu­tion is ca­pit­u­la­tion. I broke down and bought Lemon­ade on iTunes. It cost $17.99. I’ve never been a Beyoncé fan, but this al­bum, full of wit, rage, and even vul­ner­a­bil­ity, shat­tered my re­sis­tance; the dreamy, hour­long movie that ac­com­pa­nies it only adds more lay­ers to

Lemon­ade’s ex­am­i­na­tion of race, gen­der, and the vi­cis­si­tudes of celebrity. Best of all, I un­der­stood what ev­ery­body was talk­ing about. It’s one thing to read about a record like this. It’s an­other to hear the mu­sic. <BW>

THE STREAM­ING SER­VICES MADE LEMONS OUT OF LEMON­ADE

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