The highly anticipated release this August of Frank Ocean’s newest album, Blonde, as well as (bonus!!) his visual album, Endless, was certainly something guaranteed to attract headlines from online media across the internet. These projects came only after four years of fans not-so-patiently waiting for their debut, but that’s not all people are talking about. Because of the long wait, some fans were left feeling a little disappointed when it was announced that Blonde was going to be available exclusively on Apple Music for the first two weeks of its release. Now to most people, two weeks in the grand scheme of things doesn’t sound like a long time, but for an album this hyped up many people were frustrated to find out they were essentially forced to either pay and subscribe to Apple Music or wait another two weeks for the album to be released onto Spotify and other streaming services (while all of their friends were already tweeting about how fire it is).
It’s this exact dilemma that has created controversy surrounding the marketing strategy behind Apple Music. Is this a genius plan or is it just annoying to force fans into paying for their service if they want access to the music earlier?
It’s no secret that Spotify has been wildly more successful that Apple Music since Apple first introduced themselves as a serious competitor in the music streaming industry. Since then, Apple has tried a multitude of ways to catch up, from overhauling the service to be more simple to creating better ways for users to discover new artists and sounds. However, none of these changes showed much success, which is why the marketing team took this new approach of contracting deals with major artists to have exclusive first dibs. Frank Ocean is only the most recent artist to take this deal, with other notables being Drake and Chance the Rapper.
Since implementing this new strategy, Apple is quickly catching up to Spotify in paid subscribers, though not without a few grumbles from both users and members within the music industry itself. As successful as this strategy is, it can’t help but encourage more illegal torrenting of music on the internet- the very problem that lost-cost online streaming services like Spotify was helping combat previously. Why pay for two subscriptions when you can just do a little Googling and get the new music for free?
Almost nobody wins in this scenario- the artists get gypped out of compensation for their music, streaming services lose subscribers, and users wind up with nasty viruses on their computer. With consequences like this, it makes you wonder if Apple’s marketing strategy will hold up in the long term or if people will just find other ways to work around this exclusivity. Until then, I’ll just be patiently waiting for Blonde to drop on Spotify.