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Ministry of Sound Strikes Exclusive Playlist Deal With Apple Music — Shutting Out Spotify

The dance-music giant's playlists will be removed from non-Apple Music services this week, a source says.

Apple Music and the Ministry of Sound label have struck an exclusive playlist deal that will effectively shut out Spotify, a rep for Apple confirmed to Variety. News of the deal, which was first reported by Music Business Worldwide, will see exclusive Ministry of Sound-branded playlists being posted on Apple Music beginning Thursday (Oct. 4).

The label currently has multiple popular playlists on Spotify, including “Dance Nation,” “R&B Mixtape” and “Ibiza Anthems,” which have hundreds of thousands of followers. A source tells Variety that those playlists will be removed from Spotify and other non-Apple streaming services in the coming days.

Ministry of Sound is wholly owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which acquired the company in 2016 for a reported 67 million Euros.

Reps for Ministry of Sound and Spotify did not immediately comment on the move when contacted by Variety. 

While not unprecedented — Apple Music has an exclusive deal with Universal for its Peaceful Music playlist, for example — the deal represents a next frontier in the streaming and playlisting wars between Apple Music and Spotify, the world’s two largest streaming services. While Apple and fellow streamer Tidal initially tried to gain ground on global market leader Spotify by offering exclusive audio or video content from individual artists including Beyonce, Drake and Frank Ocean, that tactic has largely cooled off, particularly after Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge banned the company from such exclusives shortly after the release of Ocean’s “Blonde” album in August of 2016. While sources say the album was not the sole cause of Grainge’s decision, “Blonde” was released — initially via an Apple Music exclusive — just days after Ocean had fulfilled his contractual obligations to Universal with the subpar “Endless” album.

The move is also striking in that Spotify promotes its own playlists far more than those from third parties, whereas the Ministry of Sound deal indicates that Apple Music may be less proprietary.

Ministry of Sound Recordings was launched in 1993 as an extension of the popular South London nightclub (pictured above in 2005) founded by James Palumbo. While more of a niche imprint in the U.S., it is among the world’s largest dance-music recording companies, particularly in the U.K., with cumulative global album sales in excess of 70 million, including multiple U.K. No. 1 albums and singles.

Yet the company’s most popular and influential releases have been its compilations — and the streaming version of those compilations is its playlists.

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