Spotify Steps Up Fight Against Frank Ocean-Like Exclusives, Clocks 39 Million Paying Subscribers

Spotify Frank Ocean Fight

Spotify has a message for Frank Ocean: Don’t expect much love for your new album if and when it ever reaches our service.

That’s according to the New York Times, which reported this week that Spotify has a new policy in place to put less promotion muscle behind albums that were given to other services on an exclusive basis before. Spotify may, for example, decide against featuring such albums on its service, or include their songs in fewer playlists. (Spotify didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)

This comes after the latest of a string of releases that shunned Spotify in favor of exclusive deals with Apple Music or TIDAL. The latest: Frank Ocean’s new album “Blonde” appeared exclusively on Apple Music last week. It’s Ocean’s first album in four years, with a twist. Just days before releasing “Blonde,” Ocean released a 46-minute music video dubbed “Endless” that has been called a “visual album” by the artist, and is also an Apple Music exclusive.

Apple has gotten a few popular albums on an exclusive basis in the past, while other artists have instead tied the knot with Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service. Beyoncé, Drake, Rihanna, Kanye West and others all have done these kinds of exclusive deals, which often promise artists more income than regular streaming royalties.

Spotify has thus far stayed away from exclusive deals, with executives arguing that they don’t benefit music fans or record labels. Lady Gaga’s former manager Troy Carter, who joined Spotify as a high-profile artist liaison this summer,  reiterated that point this week, telling Billboard that “exclusives are bad for artists, bad for consumers and bad for the whole industry.”

Carter also used to interview to reveal that Spotify now has more than 39 million paying subscribers, up from 30 million in March. This suggests that thus far, exclusives to competing services haven’t hurt Spotify’s growth. The major record labels, which own minor stakes in the streaming service, want to keep it that way. Universal Music chairman Lucian Grainge pinned an internal memo this week that called for an end to long-term exclusives, according to the Times.

However, some artists may beg to differ, and Apple’s deep coffers may make it easier for them to do so. Case in point: Frank Ocean released “Blonde” independently, splitting with his former label Universal and instead banking on up-front money from Apple.