After insisting rather strongly that his new album, Life of Pablo, would never be available outside of Tidal, it appears that Kanye West has finally backed down. Just in case you haven’t already torrented the hell out of the album already, Life of Pablo is now also available streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play, and is for sale on his website.
Kanye is a stakeholder in Tidal, the streaming music service which Jay Z acquired last year and rebranded as a business that would serve the interests of artists, rather than those of music and tech executives. It’s meant to be fairer for artists and offer a better listening experience to fans. The biggest selling point for actual humans has been exclusives from the likes of Prince, Rihanna, Lil Wayne, and most recently of course, Mr. West.
Initially, Kanye was unwavering in his support for Tidal. The tweet is famous by now:
Never, never, never, huh?
Unfortunately, it seems the exclusive wasn’t quite paying off, and so even though he expressed a strong commitment to Tidal when Pablo dropped, Kanye’s going off script. It’s on Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play.
In fairness, Tidal exclusives have worked to some extent. The company bragged this week that it’s up to 3 million members from a reported 500,000 last year, which is nothing to sneer at. Still, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to Spotify’s 30 million paying subscribers.
As the streaming music business—indeed, the digital music business in general—sorts itself out, artists and services will experiment to try to make something that satisfies fans’ rabid needs, and the equally important need of artists to get paid. It’s easy to make fun of Kanye, but the truth is he just made his brilliance easier for people to consume legally. The tides have turned in everyone’s favor.
For Kanye, it’s business. Unfortunately, while business decisions might only be temporary, on the internet, tweets last forever.