The war between the various streaming services continue to heat up as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, TIDAL and others all try and find a competitive advantage in the crowded music market. Exclusives have been one way for services like Apple Music and TIDAL to try and gain an edge on their rivals. That has been one of the major selling points for TIDAL and their artist owners, while Apple Music has scored major deals with the likes of Drake, Future, Chance The Rapper and Frank Ocean recently. Now Universal Music has reportedly decided they are ruling out entirely streaming exclusives for their artists.
This news comes from a very brief note written by industry insider Bob Lefsetz on his daily newsletter via The Guardian, where he states that UMG Lucian Grainge CEO sent out an email to company executives ending all future exclusives.
This could be because of what they felt like was a slight by Frank Ocean. According to The Fader, Ocean fulfilled his record contract with the release of Endless as an Apple Music exclusive on Aug. 19. He then went on to release his official studio album Blonde as an independent artist the following day on Aug. 20. This could have made Universal's brass so angry that an artist pulled one over on them by releasing a lesser project as an exclusive as a way to get out of a contract.
If this comes to fruition, it would have major ramifications for streaming services. Universal had seven of the 10 top selling albums in 2015 and accounted for 38.5 percent of global music sales. It would be the first major label to ban streaming exclusives and when Universal does something, generally the other two majors, Sony and Warner soon follow.
This would be a blow to the streaming companies who are looking for exclusives, but it could also impact Universal if some artists are looking to pair with a streaming service. So this could be a double edged sword.