In August 2016, Frank Ocean released Blonde exclusively on Apple Music. The decision was made by Ocean independently, without Def Jam Recordings, his former label, being a part of the deal. The exclusive deal reportedly “ignited a music streaming war”. The move followed in the footsteps of other artists, including Adele, Coldplay, Future, Drake, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kanye West, who released albums on exclusive terms with music streaming competitors of leading service Spotify. Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s head of communications, told The Verge that “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. 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”. Ocean’s independent move to Apple Music exclusivity caused “a major fight in the music industry”, and Universal Music Group reportedly banned the practice of exclusive releases for its signed artists. Soon after, several major record labels followed Universal, marking a significant change in the industry. According to unnamed label executives, Spotify had also introduced a new policy that said that the service would not give the same level of promotion once an album arrives on Spotify after other services, including not being prominently featured in playlists. Rolling Stone wrote in October 2016 that “if you wanted to keep up with new albums by Beyoncé, Drake, Frank Ocean and Kanye West, among many others, you would have had to subscribe to not one but two streaming services”, adding that “But over the past few months, a backlash has developed against this new reality”. Lady Gaga told Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio that “I told my label that if they signed those contracts with Apple Music and Tidal, I’d leak all my own new music”.
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