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Kanye West Is Finished With Exclusive Deals on Streaming Services

Michael Buckner, Getty Images
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

After news recently broke that Kanye West has cut ties with JAY-Z’s Tidal over a $3 million financial dispute, TMZ reports that the ordeal has left such a sour taste in his mouth, he’s finished with all exclusive streaming deals.

When The Life of Pablo dropped, it was as a Tidal exclusive—the project wasn’t available to stream or purchase on any other service for a month and a half, which sources say increased piracy and limited fans’ ability to get the music. Kanye reportedly has said that’s not going to happen again. When he releases his new album, which he’s reportedly been recording in relative isolation, it will be available everywhere.

While Kanye and JAY-Z’s business beef has made headlines, particularly after Jay publicly chastised ‘Ye on 4:44’s “Kill Jay Z,” the issue of artists entering into exclusive deals with streaming platforms isn’t new. In fact, it’s been a subject of debate by insiders, who say that the exclusive deals ultimately hurt consumers who may not be able to afford subscription services from two or three different streaming platforms (such as Tidal or Apple Music).

In fact, back in July 2016, Kanye went on Twitter to express his frustrations with streaming set up.

“The Tidal Apple Music beef is f—ing up the music game,” he wrote.

Fellow Chicago rapper, Kid Cudi, chimed in, supporting West’s assessment.

“All this s— is wack. Bunch of rich guys on a power trip,” he wrote on Twitter. “This s— aint about music. Never has.The rich just wanna get richer. Spare me,” he tweeted, adding, “the art is lost.”

Then, in September 2016, super producer Metro Boomin’ also voiced his disappointment with exclusive streaming deals, after he ironically tried to find old JAY-Z music on iTunes and couldn’t.

“Just searched iTunes for 10 minutes for song cry by jay z and couldn’t find it, then searched 4 blueprint and remembered tidal vs apple,” Metro tweeted. “This streaming war s— is so sus with all the exclusivity bulls—. Just let the kids have the music because that’s what it should be about. Shouldn’t have to have subscriptions to 2 different services just to listen to blueprint and views. Makes me miss how simple CDs were.”

At the time, Apple was rumored to be in talks to purchase Tidal, though months later Apple executive Jimmy Iovine denied the reports. Since then, Tidal has entered a $200 million partnership with Sprint.

Who knows what Kanye’s departure from Tidal and refusal to link with any particular streaming service for future projects will bring in terms of the new distribution of music. Clearly, the music industry still needs to figure this out. And despite his recent issues, Kanye has certainly been on the forefront of spearheading trends and change.

Maybe he hasn’t lost his touch.

See Worst to First: Every Kanye West Album Ranked

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