Kanye West a few days ago revealed that he turned down a $100 million offer to make his upcoming album Donda 2 an Apple Music exclusive. Apple’s offer is a bit of a throwback to a few years ago when the company was throwing money at artists as part of its concerted effort to compete with Spotify. Of course, platform exclusives aren’t anything new in the ongoing streaming wars. You might recall that Beyonce’s album Lemonade was a Tidal exclusive for years before it came to Apple Music and Spotify.
Donda 2 won’t be available on Apple, Spotify, or even YouTube
In light of Kanye West’s recent remarks, most people assumed that Donda 2 would debut on every streaming service simultaneously. But West, who is no stranger to forging his own path no matter how bizarre it seems, has other plans.
Taking to Instagram late on Thursday night, West said that Donda 2 won’t be available on any major streaming platform. From Apple Music and Spotify to Amazon and YouTube, Donda 2 will be nowhere to be found. Instead, West divulged that the album will only be available on — wait for it — West’s own music player called Stem Player.
That’s right, Donda 2 will only be playable if you’re willing to fork over $200 for a piece of hardware.
A supposed selling point of the Stem Player is that it allows users to customize songs. For instance, the Stem Player allows users to isolate vocal, drum, bass, and sample tracks.
West writes of the Stem Player:
Donda 2 will only be streaming on my own platform, the stem player. You can download new music from stemplayer.com. You can play 4 different elements of the track: vocals, drums, bass and music. It also has a MP3 player available. We currently have 67,000 available and are making 3,000 a day.
I suppose that’s intriguing for hardcore music fiends, but this type of product wouldn’t have even been that compelling back in the iPod era when paying $200 for music hardware was commonplace. Selling a $200 music player today is laughably absurd. But if you’re familiar with Kanye, this shouldn’t be all that surprising. Still, this Donda 2 news is nothing short of discouraging for Kanye West fans.
Why Kanye West is avoiding the major streaming platforms
According to Kanye, his new Stem Player gambit is far from a money grab. On the contrary, West frames his decision as a strategy designed to wrestle back control from industry juggernauts like Apple and Spotify.
West’s Instagram post — which may be taken down in characteristic Kanye West fashion — reads as follows:
Donda 2 will only be available on my own platform, the Stem Player. Not on Apple Amazon Spotify or YouTube. Today artists get just 12% of the money the industry makes. It’s time to free music from this oppressive system. It’s time to take control and build our own. Go to stemplayer.com now to order.
And having visited the Stem Player website, I can’t see this strategy paying off in the slightest. Kanye is a musical genius. That is not in dispute. However, this business plan seems unequivocally absurd. But then again, if there’s one thing we can agree on when it comes to Kanye West, it’s that the man is full of surprises.
So will anyone actually be able to listen to Donda 2 on a streaming service? It’s probably inevitable. Remember, West in 2016 said that The Life of Pablo would never appear on Apple Music. Fast forward to 2022 and the album is available to subscribers.