Universal Music Group Bans Streaming Exclusives

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UMG announced plans to cease all exclusive licensing deals with streaming platforms.

In an attempt to put control back into the hands of the label, Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, has ordered the company to quit the trending practice of exclusive deals with streaming services like iTunes, Spotify and Tidal. The news arrives only days after Frank Ocean’s monstrous Blonde Boys Don’t Cry was exclusively available on iTunes.

Other massive records to see similar deals in recent years include Taylor Swift’s 1989, Adele’s 25, Drake’s Views, Rihanna’s ANTi, Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo and Beyonce’s Lemonade.

The Guardian reports Grainge “sent out a company-wide email on Monday” announcing the new initiative. By the way, UMG distributed seven of 2015’s 10 best-selling albums and 38.5% of the year’s recorded-music sales. They are the first major label to ban the practice.

Why? Because they believe the exclusive deals as a whole have hurt music sales.

According to Bob Lefsetz, author of an influential music industry newsletter, “there’s a conspiracy between Apple Music and the industry to change the game, to get everybody to pay for a subscription by putting hit content behind a paywall.”

He adds: “Most people don’t give a crap about the new Frank Ocean album. We’ve got an industry that promotes marginal products that appeal to few and makes them unavailable to most people? That’s hysterical!”

A dizzying amount of artists fall under the UMG umbrella, including Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Lorde, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande and many more. See a list here.

Lefsetz says exclusives misrepresent a part of that market that ultimately alienates music consumers. “Apple Music is a me-too product that works badly that’s locked behind a paywall and the music industry wants it to be the dominant platform so the fan is squeezed and indie acts are pushed down to the bottom where they belong.”

While the music industry waits for an official confirmation that UMG is pulling out of streaming exclusives, Lefsetz has a few choice words for artist signing these deals.

“Shame on you Frank, and shame on everybody else who takes money from Apple and screws fans. There’s enough money in music without taking every last buck, and the joke is on you, for thinking so short term, you want your music available to everybody, because in these days of information overload we need nobody, everybody is superfluous, you don’t want to enter the marketplace with one hand tied behind your back,” he wrote.

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