It’s not uncommon these days to see new albums from big name artists launch exclusively on a particular streaming platform. Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo”, for instance, was a Tidal exclusive for a number of weeks before it ultimately found its way to Apple Music, iTunes and Spotify. More recently, Beyonce’s “Lemonade” album is only available to stream via Tidal, though it is available for purchase via iTunes. And most recently, Drake’s new album “Views” launched as an Apple Music and iTunes exclusive for just one week.
Now seeing as how these album exclusives are essentially temporary – eventually, every album will wind up everywhere – some have questioned whether or not paying big bucks to secure artist exclusives is worth a) the money and b) the aggravation it causes fans. But who are we kidding: the the music industry cares obviously cares way more about money than fans, so might as well just go ahead and focus on the economic implications of artist exclusives.
To answer the above question, the amount of money to be made via an exclusive deal with Apple or Tidal is immense. To wit, The Wall Street Journal reports that Drake’s “Views” album was purchased 1 million times in just five days. As the Journal notes, the figure is staggering and impressive in today’s “age of rapid streaming growth, declining sales of downloads and CDs.”
Hip-hop star Drake sold more than one million copies of his new album, “Views,” in less than five days when it was available only on Apple Inc.’s iTunes download store and its subscription streaming service, Apple Music—a rare achievement in an age of rapid streaming growth and declining sales of downloads and CDs.
Apple Music users streamed the album more than 250 million times world-wide, 200 million of those times in the U.S., suggesting that Apple Music was able to get a good number of customers to sign up for free trials of its paid-only service beyond its current roughly 13 million paying subscribers and several million existing trial users.
Given how successful the album was both from a sales and streaming perspective, the economic benefits of an album-exclusive, even if only for a week, is clear.
One interesting tidbit relayed by the Journal is that Drake’s record label employed “dozens of staff” to keep an eye on YouTube uploads to ensure that the video sharing site was kept completely free of unauthorized video uploads of the album’s songs.
On another note, album exclusives sometimes result in some old-fashioned piracy action taking place. Indeed, shortly after Drake’s album went live, the album quickly became a hotly traded file on file-sharing sites.