Music streaming has changed the way we consume music permanently.
I no longer have to wait to get iTunes gift cards at Christmas to buy all those new albums I’ve been ogling. I can download entire discographies at the click of a button, and as soon as that new album drops, I can add it to my collection.
So it seems I have nothing to complain about as a music consumer, right? WRONG. The worst thing that the birth of streaming has brought is platform-exclusive releases, which grinds me goddamn gears to no end.
TIDAL — owned by rapper Jay Z and the most obnoxious streaming platform out there – is notorious for doing this. Beyonce’s Lemonade, for example, is still locked behind their doors (you can buy the album on iTunes, sure, but why should I need to take the extra step to buy the album when I already have an Apple Music subscription?). Jay-Z’s 4:44 was TIDAL-exclusive for a week before coming to other streaming platforms.
Lil Uzi Vert — an artist who I would throw myself in the sun for — recently came out of a short retirement to drop his new single, “Free Uzi.” When I rushed to stream it, I was deeply disappointed; it was only available on TIDAL and SoundCloud (it’s since been removed from TIDAL for copyright issues). And given that Uzi is now working with Roc Nation — Jay Z’s label — I worry that his next project, External Atake, will be a TIDAL exclusive too.
I get that this is TIDAL’s way of standing out in a streaming market dominated by Spotify and Apple Music, but it really throws a wrench in my musical consumption. I’ve committed to Apple Music because I have an iPod touch. Why the hell should I have to pay another subscription fee to access one or two platform-exclusive albums I want to listen to?
This model, while a royal pain for consumers, is unfortunately very beneficial for both artists and streaming platforms. I guess that means I won’t see this practice disappear anytime soon, and as such, I guess there will just be some albums I won’t ever listen to.