All of Jay-Z’s solo albums have been removed from the Apple Music and Spotify streaming services. According to a statement made to the Verge by Spotify, the removal came “at the request of the artist.” Jay-Z’s solo work is also almost entirely absent from Amazon Music’s streaming catalog, with just four tracks from mixtapes offered.
Jay-Z, a.k.a. Shawn Carter, is part owner of Tidal, a music streaming service that competes with Apple, Spotify, and Amazon’s services. Carter purchased Tidal’s parent company in 2015 and re-launched the service in partnership with many other high-profile artists, who stated a desire to maintain control of, and a higher share of revenue from, their own work.
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Since then, Tidal’s expansion strategy has largely revolved around exclusive content, both new and old. It saw significant expansions of its user base when it offered exclusives from Carter’s wife Beyonce and longtime collaborator Kanye West. Many Tidal exclusives have been short-lived, though, and may not have converted many paying customers.
In response, Apple Music has offered some exclusives of its own, including from R&B singer Frank Ocean. Spotify, however, has argued that this balkanization of content is harmful to music fans’ experience, and to the music industry overall.
The removal of Jay-Z’s albums from competing services has happened incrementally, with prime-era Jay-Z albums including Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint series removed in 2015 and 2016.
While it’s probably good optics for an owner of a streaming service to remove his music from competing services, it’s interesting that it took this long, possibly thanks to licensing arrangements involving third parties.
And while it’s in line with Tidal’s broader focus on exclusives, it seems unlikely that Carter’s move will dramatically boost Tidal’s appeal for subscribers. Some of the albums in question are over a decade old, and despite Jay-Z’s lasting impact on hip hop, his attention is now focused on his array of business ventures, and his currency among young music fans has waned significantly.
Though it has not managed to substantially dent the subscription numbers of frontrunners in the streaming music industry, Carter has still turned Tidal into a very solid investment. In January, Sprint purchased a 33% stake in a deal that reportedly valued the company at $600 million, compared to its 2015 purchase price of $56 million.