The back­lash is lively on so­cial me­dia

Los Angeles Times - - CAL­EN­DAR - ran­dall.roberts @la­times.com Twit­ter: @liledit

smart­ing from an ear­lier Jay-Z ini­tia­tive: pulling all of his al­bums from Ti­dal’s com­peti­tor, in­dus­try leader Spo­tify, in April.

On so­cial me­dia, the back­lash on the “4:44” ex­clu­sive was swift (if some­times un­gram­mat­i­cal): “Jay z al­bum a ti­dal ex­clu­sive he dont want any­one to hear it ap­par­ently,” wrote one fan, echo­ing the thoughts of many.

The out­cry serves as a re­minder of the con­tin­ued bat­tle for stream­ing-ser­vice dol­lars. Stuck in a tug-ofwar among big-money in­ter­ests, fans are be­ing asked to com­mit to stream­ing plat­forms or sign car­rier con­tracts — and give per­sonal data — in ex­change for their en­thu­si­asm.

Jay-Z isn’t the first to ex­clu­sively de­liver his new work to a par­tic­u­lar mu­sic stream­ing plat­form for an in­de­ter­mi­nate pe­riod (a press re­lease did not in­di­cate when — or if — “4:44” would be re­leased in other for­mats or through other ser­vices, though new or ex­ist­ing Sprint cus­tomers will re­ceive free ac­cess to Ti­dal for six months).

The Cana­dian rap hit maker Drake has a mul­ti­tiered ar­range­ment with Ap­ple Mu­sic, as does pop mag­nate Tay­lor Swift. Bey­oncé also is­sued her most re­cent al­bum, “Le­mon­ade,” as a Ti­dal ex­clu­sive. In the past, some ex­clu­sives have been lim­ited to a few days, while oth­ers have per­sisted for a num­ber of weeks.

Fans who are al­ready com­mit­ted to a com­pet­ing ser­vice aren’t the only losers, said Laura Martin, se­nior en­ter­tain­ment and In­ter­net in­dus­try an­a­lyst for in­vest­ment bank­ing firm Need­ham & Co.

“I think this is is bad for the mu­sic busi­ness,” she said.

Cit­ing Ap­ple Mu­sic’s re­cent in­vest­ment in se­cur­ing ex­clu­sive re­leases, Martin said Sprint and Ti­dal’s move is “a wors­en­ing, if you will, of what Ap­ple started, which is pay­ing for mu­sic ex­clu­sives to try and drive Ap­ple Mu­sic sub­scrip­tions.”

Plus, it’s con­fus­ing. “If they used to lis­ten to Jay-Z on Spo­tify, all they know is they put in ‘Jay-Z’ and noth­ing’s there,” Martin added. “And how many peo­ple are re­ally go­ing to be in the mid­dle of their con­tract term and and say, ‘OK, I’m go­ing to can­cel this and go get Sprint in­stead’?”

One Twit­ter user made a pre­dic­tion: “Jay-Z’s next al­bum will be ex­clu­sive to TI­DAL and Sprint cus­tomers for 6 months. Guess which al­bum will be the most pi­rated of the year?”

From Ti­dal and Jay-Z’s per­spec­tive, the move cer­tainly makes sense. When rap­per Kanye West re­leased his most re­cent al­bum, “The Life of Pablo,” as a Ti­dal ex­clu­sive, sub­scrip­tions to the ser­vice jumped from 1 mil­lion to 2.5 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by Gold­man Sachs.

(Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the al­bum was il­le­gally down­loaded via Bit Tor­rent more than 500,000 times soon af­ter re­lease, ac­cord­ing to Tor­rent Freak.)

En­ter­tain­ment at­tor­ney Ju­lian K. Petty, who rep­re­sents rap artists in­clud­ing Vince Sta­ples, A Tribe Called Quest, Earl Sweat­shirt and oth­ers and is part­ner at the law firm Nixon Pe­abody, said he ad­vises his artists to strike a bal­ance.

“What­ever is ben­e­fi­cial and lu­cra­tive to the client while at the same time not com­pro­mis­ing the re­la­tion­ship with the fans, I’m all for it,” Petty said.

“When you look at Drake’s deal, that’s an over­all, multi-pronged, mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar deal. They’re driv­ing traf­fic to the ser­vice, they’ve in­vested in mu­sic videos and dif­fer­ent pro­mos — it’s a great look for every­body.”

On Ti­dal’s plat­form, the teaser for Jay-Z’s forth­com­ing al­bum was pre­sented as a kind of loss leader for the cell­phone car­rier. It was couched in­side an ad for Sprint that said, “Switch to Sprint and get six months of Ti­dal in the U.S.”

But, added Petty, the big­gest op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able only to A-level draws — those who are able to earn enough stream­ing plays to off­set few plat­forms with­out sac­ri­fic­ing chart po­si­tion.

“Not many peo­ple can do that in this en­vi­ron­ment,” Petty said. “Even though stream­ing is do­ing well now and the busi­ness is start­ing to level out, folks are try­ing to get their things ev­ery­where.”

Chelsea Lau­ren Rex Shut­ter­stock

HIT MAKER Drake has a mul­ti­tiered ar­range­ment with Ap­ple Mu­sic.

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