Universal Music has reportedly declared the end of albums released exclusively on a single music streaming service, after an unexpected double release from artist Frank Ocean last week left it potentially out of pocket.
2016 has undeniably been the year of the streaming-exclusive album, with Kanye West, Beyoncé and Rihanna all debuting their latest releases on Tidal, and Drake making his recording-breaking album Views only available through Apple Music.
However, with the release last week of Ocean's Endless, a 'visual album' composed of 18 music videos, and Blonde, a more traditional 17-track album, that might all be over.
Endless was put out through Universal's Def Jam label – also home to West and Rihanna – as an Apple Music-exclusive video stream. Blonde, meanwhile, was Ocean's first album after being released from his record contract with Def Jam, put out on his own label Boys Don't Cry also through Apple Music.
All of which is perfectly normal business in the modern music industry – except that the two albums were released just one day apart.
While Ocean did technically fulfill his contractual obligations to Def Jam, the label was reportedly left feeling like it had been cheated out of the album it had been paying for Ocean to record – and reacted by moving away from streaming exclusives altogether.
According to Billboard, Universal CEO Lucian Grainge sent a company-wide email on Monday announcing that none of its subsidiaries – which include not just Def Jam but Interscope, Capitol Records and UK labels Polydor and Virgin EMI – will be releasing any music exclusive to a single platform going forward.
It's not entirely clear whether the policy change was motivated by Ocean's move, but the timing seems unlikely to be completely coincidental.