Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Jay-Z Releases ‘4:44’ Exclusively for Sprint Customers and Existing Tidal Users

Olivia Craighead, the Fader:

JAY-Z’s thirteenth studio album, 4:44, drops tonight at midnight, and it’s an exclusive to TIDAL subscribers and Sprint customers. However, fans will have to sign up for TIDAL before midnight in order to hear the album. After midnight, the album will only be available to Sprint customers, a source close to TIDAL confirmed to The FADER.

I get the motivation for artist to make their new release exclusive to a single platform for a period. Aside from limitations arising from deliberate artistic decisions, they’re a way for a musician to make a little extra money from the deal in a climate of decreasing album sales and low streaming royalties. They also create an opportunity for the platform to get a bunch of new subscribers — the only time anyone talks about Tidal is when they have an exclusive new release.

I don’t get the strategy around this release, though. Why set an arbitrary deadline for subscriptions before the album drops? I doubt anyone is going to switch mobile carriers to get this record — even though it’s probably Jay-Z’s best work since ‘The Black Album’ — and it isn’t like people don’t have options if they missed the signup window. What’s the goal here?

Update: Micah Singleton, the Verge:

In the last four years, Jay Z has released two albums, both through non-traditional means. While most artists would sign with a record label to release their album, the most successful hip-hop artist of all time, a man worth $810 million, has made deals with a smartphone maker and carrier to cover distribution and promotion. The total value of the agreements, which include not just Jay Z’s music, but his businesses is a whopping $220 million.

No matter how good I think this record is — and I do genuinely think it’s one of my favourite Jay-Z records — it will always be a little undermined and sullied by how much of a corporate play it is.

See Also: Anthony Fantano’s take. He doesn’t like this exclusivity arrangement either.