It’s been three years since Frank Ocean and Apple Music gave the major labels a reason to fret a little.
If you recall, Ocean released his final album in a Def Jam/Universal Music Group contract – the video-driven effort, Endless – in August 2016. Then, just one day later, with Ocean technically free from his major label deal, a fuller, more traditional ‘studio’ album, Blonde, arrived on his own label, Boys Don’t Cry.
In the background of this bait-and-switch on Ocean’s major label partner was Apple Music, which had inked its own multi-million dollar deal with the artist to secure a timed exclusive on these releases. Blonde didn’t appear on key rival Spotify’s service until nearly three weeks later.
In the wake of the Frank Ocean story, UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge issued a decree across his business banning his labels from inking similar exclusive ‘window’ deals with the likes of Apple. The rest of the industry generally agreed with him, and ‘streaming exclusive-gate’ got, well, shut.
Until now, that is. Today (July 4), Rolling Stone is reporting that Apple has inked a wide-ranging partnership deal with one of the hottest rap artists in France – the fiercely independent duo, PNL.
This agreement includes a timed-exclusive on four new tracks from PNL, which were released on Friday (June 28); all of them hit the Top 4 of Apple Music’s French chart.
The Apple Music deal is also set to include further musical exclusives in future, in addition to co-branded marketing and other joint promotional endeavours.
PNL’s latest album, Deux Frères (Two Brothers), attracted over 113,000 sales equivalents in its first week on the French chart in April, going to No.1 in its homeland, as well as Belgium and Switzerland.
As Rolling Stone notes: “Considering France’s national population is nearly five times smaller than that of the United States (67 million vs. 327 million), this week-one sales figure was analogous to shifting 552,000 albums Stateside.”
PNL, who have maintained ownership of their masters throughout their career, is made up of brothers N.O.S and Ademo (Tarik and Nabil Andrieu).
Their previous album, 2016’s Dans la Legende, is now Diamond-certified in France. It too went to No.1 in France, Switzerland and Belgium.
Apple Music’s Global Creative Director, Larry Jackson, responded to PNL’s new tracks arriving on the service in an Instagram story on Wednesday (July 3).
He wrote: “A huge congrats to my French brothers – the biggest and most influential duo out there – PNL, for breaking streaming records again in Europe this week. This time we proudly did it together.
“These guys bravely turned down countless offers from every company in business to remain fiercely independent, and also stay in control of their own masters.”Music Business Worldwide