Apple Music’s biggest swipe at Spotify yet: Drake’s exclusive new album

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Canadian hip-hop superstar Drake was Spotify’s biggest artist of last year, clocking up a ridiculous-sounding 1.8bn streams across 46 million listeners.

Today, three years since his last solo studio album ‘proper’, 2013’s Nothing Was The Same, Drake continues to pull in 21.5m monthly listeners on the platform.

It means he’s Spotify’s seventh biggest artist right now – and that more than a fifth of Daniel Ek’s total global active users listened to Drake in the past four weeks.

Later this month, however, those listeners could be in for a bit of a shock.

Drake

Drake has just confirmed that his new album, Views (Aka ‘Views From The 6’), will be released on Friday, April 29.

The big news: it’s going to be an Apple Music streaming exclusive – in some sense, at least.

Details of the record were revealed on Beats 1’s OVO Sound Radio (via Apple Music) yesterday, where Drake said: “Thank you Apple Music – always, man; thank you to Jimmy [Iovine] and thank you to everybody who supported the two singles that we dropped [this week], Pop Style and One Dance.

“I’m excited, man. We’re close and I’ve got something special to share with you.”

Drake then tweeted that the release would be an Apple Music exclusive – before deleting the missive – but Apple has since confirmed to reporters that he was telling the truth.

We’re yet to know what form this exclusive will take and, crucially, how long it will shut other platforms like Spotify – plus TIDAL, Google Play and Deezer – out of the game.

What we do know for sure is that this story has been a long time coming.

Rumours last year suggested that Apple Music had signed a $19m deal with Drake, which included some assurances of exclusive material.

Many wondered how such a deal would shake out, but since then, we’ve seen a series of nods towards a special relationship between the artist and brand:

  • In June last year, Drake appeared on stage at WWDC in San Francisco to trumpet, amongst other things, the possibilities of Apple Music’s Connect platform. He was wearing a jacket emblazoned with the classic Apple logo;
  • Drake’s biggest single to date, Hotline Bling, arrived a month later. It was boosted by a colourful video which, it later emerged, was paid for in full by Apple. It currently has over 654m views on YouTube/Vevo;
  • The OVO Sound Radio programme, which showcases artists signed to Drake’s OVO label as well as other emerging acts, debuted on Apple Music’s Beats 1 nine months ago. So far, OVO has recorded and ‘aired’ 19 shows on the platform;
  • Drake & Future’s US No.1 mixtape, What A Time To Be Alive, was released as a windowed Apple Music streaming exclusive in October last year. It eventually arrived on other platforms including Spotify;
  • An OVO signing, the mysterious R&B duo DVSN released their debut album as an Apple Music exclusive last month;
  • Two new singles from Views, Pop Style and One Dance, were released last week and, officially speaking, are ‘Apple Music exclusives’.

In terms of streaming’s exclusivity wars, this is perhaps the biggest deal yet: Apple Music going out of its way to raidthe appeal one of Spotify’s most prominent superstars.

Then again, the nature of this kind of deal is no longer anything like anomalous.

As MBW covered last month, the number of blockbuster artists holding back material from Spotify for even a limited period is growing all the time.

To a range of degrees, it’s a strategy that has been followed by artists including Gwen Stefani, Jay Z, Coldplay, The 1975, Dr. Dre, Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

You also have to wonder what TIDAL, which has made its name nabbing exclusives from the biggest R&B/hip-hop artists on the planet, make of Drake and Apple’s cosy relationship.

Drake was notable by his absence at the all star TIDAL launch press conference in New York last year, where the likes of Kanye West, Jay Z, J Cole, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Usher, Rihanna and Alicia Keys made an appearance.

He appears to have placed his bets elsewhere…Music Business Worldwide

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