Kanye West’s new album is dominating music streaming, proving the genius of his release plan

Kanye West’s newest album, The Life of Pablo, is a big success on Apple Music.
Kanye West’s newest album, The Life of Pablo, is a big success on Apple Music.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The stuttering rollout of Kanye West’s new album can now be declared a success.

The rapper and fashion mogul made The Life of Pablo available on Spotify and Apple Music on April 1, despite tweeting a few weeks ago that his album would never be on Apple. (The album was a Tidal exclusive since Feb. 14.) Despite the confusion, West is dominating the charts on the two new streaming services.

Indeed, West seems to have taken over Apple Music: He has 10 of the top 15 songs, seven of the top 10, and three of the top five. And The Life of Pablo is the number one album on Apple.

The album has had a complicated release. After West’s Saturday Night Live performance in mid-February, the album appeared exclusively on Tidal, but users were having trouble listening to it. Tidal reported West’s album had 250,000 streams in the first ten days, but the limited and glitchy release spurred widespread piracy—500,000 copies were illegally downloaded after the first day. West put the word out that he wasn’t happy, and reportedly was rather grumpy at home, too.

But on Saint Pablo, a new song reportedly from West’s next album, due this summer, he seems to see the silver lining to all that piracy, rapping, “I’ve been waking the spirits of millions more to come/A million illegally downloaded my truth over the drums.” 

The success of West’s album has also lifted the ships of the artists featured on it. Panda, a song by the little known Brooklyn rapper Desiinger, was sampled on the album, and it is now number nine on Spotify and number three on Apple Music.

West is a noted perfectionist, so the seemingly haphazard process of releasing this album appeared out of character. But given its current success, that process is starting to look more like a strategy that has paid off.