Apple Music's Reliance on Exclusives Coming Under Fire From Labels and Critics

In the wake of the much-anticipated launch of Frank Ocean's new album "Blonde," Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge has sent out an email to UMG executives, saying that the company is prohibiting the practice of exclusive music streaming moving forward (via The Lefsetz Letter). The email officially ends "all future exclusives with Universal artists," meaning popular artists like Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, and The Weeknd could all be affected by the change since they each belong to labels owned by UMG.

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The news was shared by Bob Lefsetz, a music industry analyst and critic, who penned a letter over the weekend in response to Blonde's exclusive home on Apple Music for the first two weeks of its release. Lefsetz said that the heavy reliance of streaming services on exclusive content, and how the practice is becoming increasingly normal among consumers, will ultimately hurt the industry in the long run. Halfway through, he particularly sets his sights on Apple:

Because there’s a conspiracy between Apple Music and the industry to change the game, to get everybody to pay for a subscription by putting hit content behind a paywall.

Apple should be investigated by the government for antitrust. How do you compete with the world’s richest company that’s got endless cash on hand? You can’t. It’d be like expecting hillbillies to get into Harvard if slots went to the highest bidder. The rich get richer and the rest of us…we’re left out, just like in America at large, [...] the usual suspects doing it for themselves have rigged the game in their favor, and now the music industry is trying to do this too.

According to Lefsetz, Apple's practices not only lock off entire albums to non-subscribers, but grant greater showcase to its exclusive artists -- like the Frank Ocean-centered carousel currently in the app -- consequently hurting the chances for indie musicians to break out. He calls Ocean "complicit" in Apple's schemes, and shames "everybody else who takes money from Apple and screws fans."

With exclusives popping up every few weeks over Apple Music's short fourteen-month lifespan, Kanye West even voiced frustration with the model, hoping to end the fight between Apple Music and Tidal and "let the kids have the music." Among recent artists with an exclusive Apple Music deal are Britney Spears, Frank Ocean, Katy Perry, and Drake.

You can read Lefsetz's full letter here.

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Top Rated Comments

citi Avatar
103 months ago
But when Tidal did it, it was "OK"? Was that because they didn't have the numbers apple music has? :rolleyes:
Score: 56 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spiderman0616 Avatar
103 months ago
Why are the comments sections on this site always such a complete dumpster fire?
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jakeowens Avatar
103 months ago
Isn't this how tv works? If you want to watch a show, there are a ton of them only available on one channel. In Canada we have to pay a premium to watch Game of thrones as it's only available on one streaming platform.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LordQ Avatar
103 months ago
Yeah, you tell them man! Let's also cry because Game of Thrones is an HBO-exclusive and not on Netflix as well. HBO "should be investigated by the government for antitrust", right?
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HowEver Avatar
103 months ago
Publishers with no creativity except with regard to finance make millions off actual artists... and scream when others make money off them too. Too bad. "Exclusive" for 2 weeks? So? I won't be crying for music publishers or labels, ever.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mantan Avatar
103 months ago
Why are the comments sections on this site always such a complete dumpster fire?
Because a lot of people will grab their Apple pom poms and blindly support Apple thinking 'they' are winning.

Apple's original foray into music was great for the consumer. It brought better pricing than the old CD model. But a lot of their recent activity is more 'anti-competition' at the expense (long term and short term) of the consumer.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)