With new releases from Drake and Beyoncé, among others, this past week in music was eventful—for everyone except Spotify subscribers.
Lemonade, Beyoncé’s sixth solo album, was released April 23 exclusively on streaming service Tidal after debuting on HBO. Days later, the album was available for purchase in the iTunes store but still could only be streamed through Tidal. Similarly, Drake’s highly anticipated album Views was finally released April 29 exclusively for streaming on Apple’s streaming service, Apple Music, and for purchase in the iTunes store.
Since the rise of music streaming, Spotify was widely regarded as the top music streaming service. Streaming succeeded in limiting music piracy as it allowed a cheaper alternative to purchasing music without unlicensed torrenting.
In 2015, with the launch of additional streaming services including Tidal and Apple Music, this changed.
This influx of music streaming services has crowded the marketplace and done more harm than good to the music industry, sparking a series of “streaming wars” in which each service relies on platform-exclusive releases to draw new subscribers.
The convenience of streaming was that users could access all the music they desired in one location. This value, however, is lost when major artists choose to release music exclusively to one platform.
Music fans should not be expected to spend money on monthly memberships for every streaming service available to enjoy their favorite releases of the year.
Purchasing memberships for multiple streaming services eliminates the affordability of streaming. Rather than spending money on every individual album released, listeners must instead spend just as much—if not more—money annually on streaming subscriptions access to their favorite artists’ releases.
Many people are not willing to subscribe to an additional streaming service for the sake of accessing a single platform-exclusive album and instead turn to pirating.
For example, Kanye West’s newest album, The Life of Pablo, was available exclusively on Tidal for weeks following its release. According to a Feb. 16 BBC article, Kanye’s album was illegally torrented more than half a million times within the first two days of its release.
Jay Z—along with a roster of music superstars like Beyoncé, Madonna, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Alicia Keys—launched Tidal in 2015 with the promise of “re-establishing the value of music.”
In an interview with Billboard published after Tidal’s launch, Jay Z said, “People are not respecting the music, and [are] devaluing it and devaluing what it really means. People really feel like music is free but will pay $6 for water.”
Ironically, Tidal seems to have done the opposite. The rise of music streaming was moving the art of music back to a place of value. However, the increased competition in the streaming market as well as the introduction of platform-exclusive releases has actually moved people back toward a place of devaluing music.
The music industry took a giant step forward with the introduction of music streaming, but the increased competition is now pushing that progress two steps back.