In 2016, Drake’s celebrated rap album Views became one of the first music projects to debut solely on Apple Music—and unleashed a flurry of agitation over exclusive deals in the music business. While exclusives make tons of money for hit artists, they’re also regularly slammed for encouraging piracy and turning off fans.
Fitting, then, that the controversy is now coming full circle with Drake. The rapper will release his newest project today (March 18), a “playlist” called More Life—but it won’t be an Apple Music exclusive this time, unlike Views and the slew of other deals he’s struck with the service in the past year. Spotify and Amazon both have confirmed to several music publications that they’ll have More Life available for streaming to their listeners, too.
Several things could explain Drake’s sudden ditching of exclusives. More Life isn’t a full album, so Apple might not have cared all that much about sharing it with other platforms; the deal between the rapper and the streaming service might’ve simply expired, too.
But there’s also the possibility that the music industry is finally putting its collective foot down against exclusives, and looking to new avenues of innovation. Drake’s label OVO is owned by Universal Music Group; Universal CEO Lucian Grainge announced last year—shortly after rapper Frank Ocean pulled off a stunning coup of independence from his label—that Universal is “done with streaming exclusives on one platform,” or so sources told Billboard.
As beneficial as exclusive content may be to streaming services like Apple Music or Tidal, restricting the size of one’s audience isn’t always a winning strategy for those on the production side (i.e., artists and labels). While albums like Drake’s Views or Beyoncé’s Lemonade may have found wild success as exclusives, the majority of music projects aren’t big enough to convince fans to come to one platform over another.
More Life won’t share the exclusivity-generated hype of Views, but it also stands a much bigger chance of being heard.