These are tough times for the streaming exclusive. This time last year, it seemed like pretty much everyone who was anyone was looking to tie up an exclusive deal with Apple Music or Tidal. Now, the climate has changed so much that even those who did those deals and reaped the benefits are changing their minds…
Take Jamie Oborne. He’s the co-founder of All On Red Management and the independent Dirty Hit label, both of which count The 1975 as clients. And in February 2016, The 1975’s second album, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, was an Apple Music streaming exclusive ahead of crashing straight in at No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic. It sold 58,378 in week one in the UK and has now sold 269,569 copies, according to the Official Charts Company.
In an exclusive interview with Music Week, Oborne credited the deal – which saw The 1975 launch the album with a rooftop gig in Los Angeles, filmed by Apple – with helping the band score the transatlantic No.1.
“I wanted a launch event that was global because I wanted to position the band as a global artist,” said the winner of the 2017 Music Week Awards Manager Of The Year title. “It’s very unusual that you have a band of that size that’s never been on a TV show in the UK, never been on the front of a magazine. They hadn’t had a radio hit in America but, at that point, we were already half a million records deep. So I wanted an event that demonstrated the scale of what we’d built. And doing it with Zane [Lowe] and the [Apple/Beats 1] team just felt like a natural fit.
“The objective was to have a No.1 record in America and the UK at the same time, and that was achieved. I do think that rooftop gig in LA was a contributing factor to that, and I’ll always be grateful to them for their support.”
Nonetheless, Oborne said he wouldn’t repeat the experiment.
“I would never window a record again, no,” he said. “Because I don't think a lack of consumer choices is ever a good experience. It was a moment in time. The market’s changed so much, even in the last 18 months. Spotify were incredibly gracious. We had had conversations about doing something with them. It was just about doing something that was available at that point.”
Ironically, Spotify now allows acts – or at least those who are part of the recent Universal and Merlin deals, with Sony Music expected to announce its new Spotify contract soon, likely on similar terms – to window releases on its premium service. But the exclusives market has been quiet ever since Universal Music moved away from the tactic after Frank Ocean’s Blonde appeared as an Apple Music exclusive just days after Universal had released his Endless visual album, also as an Apple exclusive.
One artist who has tried it recently is Jay-Z, whose 4:44 album came out initially as a Tidal-only release (the rapper, of course, owns the streaming platform). The album’s now also on iTunes and available physically, but last week’s Official Chart Figures show how such a deal can severely limit your reach. 4:44 entered the charts at No.102, with just 1,197 streaming ‘sales’, a clear indication of Tidal’s limited UK audience. To put it in context, Ed Sheeran’s ÷, available on all platforms, clocked up 9,398 streaming ‘sales’ in its 18th week on the chart.
Post-wider release, 4:44 is heading for a Top 5 placing in this week’s chart, although it is currently trailing both Haim and Public Service Broadcasting in the midweeks.