Drake’s upcoming album, View From The 6, is coming to fans on April 29th – but only fans who subscribe to Apple Music. As streaming has come to be an undeniable reality rather than a passing trend, “streaming exclusives” are becoming a powerful tool for stars like Drake, Rihanna, and Kanye West to use to grow subscriber numbers for streaming services that they have anointed as worthy of their new work. Due to Tidal’s recent significant growth linked to The Life of Pablo release, the industry anticipates that this Drake exclusive should significantly grow its already 11 million strong subscription base. However, the streaming exclusive strategy has come under much critique, because while it may benefit the artist and it definitely benefits the streaming services – it hurts the fans the most. Most music listeners will not be paying subscribers to more than one or two interactive streaming services, and streaming exclusives could alienate large segments of an artist’s fan base. Moreover, as seen from The Life Of Pablo and the ANTI releases on Tidal, it is basically impossible to prevent the album from subsequently appearing on piracy sites for illegal download by fans who do not want to pay for a new subscription service.
The strategy of timed and/or exclusive releases is referred to as “windowing” and has traditionally been successfully employed in the television and film industry. As streaming takes hold, whether streaming exclusives are a viable windowing strategy for music will ultimately be up to the fans.
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Jennifer Marr is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2018).