Frank Ocean’s new al­bum is an­other in­di­ca­tor of the new model for big-name re­leases

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - JIM CAR­ROLL

The wait is over. Four years after he re­leased Chan­nel Or­ange and set hearts aflut­ter, Frank Ocean fi­nally re­leases his new al­bum Boys Don’t Cry on Friday. The kink in the fabric? It’s go­ing to be an Ap­ple Mu­sic ex­clu­sive.

We’ll come to that piece of busi­ness in a few beats, but the use of the word “fi­nally” de­serves a para­graph or two of its own. In the scheme of things, four years isn’t really that long to be wait­ing for some­one to re­lease some mu­sic.

It takes time for the artis­tic juices to flow. It takes time for an artist to find their muse. It takes time for a Black Mes­siah to come to­gether or for the Stone Roses to write some more de­cent tunes (we’re still wait­ing for that, by the way).

But in the su­per-ac­cel­er­ated world of to­day, a world where artists are re­leas­ing new tracks ev­ery month and a cam­paign will have new re­leases stacked up for the next year, four years is an eter­nity. Ocean’s stature has just grown and grown dur­ing the in­terim with just a few re­leases and col­lab­o­ra­tions out there for fans to savour and get ex­cited about.

While the scarcity of ma­te­rial has helped to bur­nish Ocean’s sta­tus and renown (less is more after all), word about the new al­bum has been cir­cu­lat­ing for the past two years. Ev­ery new piece of in­for­ma­tion be­came an­other news story and, while there’s been lit­tle or no new mu­sic in the last four years, it of­ten feels as if Ocean has been ubiq­ui­tous de­spite the lack of ac­tiv­ity. No one pre­dicted that Boys

Don’t Cry would ap­pear even­tu­ally as an Ap­ple Mu­sic ex­clu­sive, though few will be surprised by this. In the stream­ing mar­ket, exclusives are the way for the big beasts to gain a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

Whether it’s Drake’s Views, Bey­oncé’s Lemon­ade, Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo or Chance the Rap­per’s Coloring

Book, the stream­ing giants be­lieve that ex­clu­siv­ity means fans will sign up for their ser­vice in or­der to hear the al­bum first – and there’s plenty of ev­i­dence to back this up.

In many ways, the stream­ing ser­vices are al­ready act­ing like record la­bels, al­beit la­bels who are tak­ing a leaf from the Real Madrid play­book. In­stead of work­ing with and de­vel­op­ing new acts like tra­di­tional record la­bels, the galac­tico ap­proach favours work­ing with proven tal­ent who al­ready have huge au­di­ences and fan­bases. It might cost you more, but you’ve a guar­an­tee that the fans will fol­low the act to the stream­ing ser­vice.

The record la­bel model is some­thing that stream­ing ser­vices are in­creas­ingly con­sid­er­ing. At a re­cent Ban­ter dis­cus­sion on mu­sic stream­ing, Deezer’s UK and Ire­land man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Chris­tian Har­ris mused about such pos­si­bil­i­ties.

“We’re just try­ing to fig­ure out how to serve our au­di­ences the best we can,” Har­ris said. “If the la­bels are do­ing their job, we can do that, but if they’re not we have to find ways to do it our­selves and port­fo­lio con­tent is one an­gle.”

For the la­bels who orig­i­nally signed acts like Drake, Bey­oncé et al, stream­ing ser­vices pay­ing for exclusives is prob­a­bly a de­cent enough propo­si­tion right now be­cause of the cash­flow. How­ever, it will be­come a far dif­fer­ent mat­ter if the quest for deals means they could be out­bid and out­mus­cled.

The win­ners in all of this will, of course, be those acts who can lever­age their la­bel-de­vel­oped pull for lu­cra­tive terms elsewhere and still main­tain a lot of con­trol. Think of that when you fire up Ap­ple Mu­sic to lis­ten to Boys Don’t Cry.

The win­ners in all of this will, of course, be those acts who can lever­age their la­bel-de­vel­oped pull for lu­cra­tive terms elsewhere and still main­tain a lot of con­trol

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