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Lemonade & Coloring Book: The Future of Selective Streaming

2016 has barely begun and we have been graced with two of the most anticipated albums of late. Unfortunately for us, these music giants are wising up to streaming. With more artists opting for exclusive releases, what does this mean for the average fan?

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The Queen B debuted Lemonade exclusively on Tidal late last month. (Tidal, the pay artists first solution to streaming, was introduced with little fanfare almost a year ago by Bey’s hubby Jay- Z. The shareholders include heavyweights like Jack White, Daft Punk and Madonna along 12 others.) Lemonade was a work of magic and a bomb in the middle of the night. No promotions, no leaks, purely an amazing album. Even better was the visual album which also debuted on HBO just once. Fans scrambled to sign up for thier free trail of the basic $9.99/month service. Beyonce has had little comment on her newest creation, but according to Hot New Hip-Hop Tidal gained 1.2 million subscribers in the week of the release. Since the release she has agreed to allow it on iTunes, but we are still waiting on that.

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Flash forward to this week when Chance the Rapper released his long awaited third mixtape, Coloring Book. The album received praise from every music giant and exploded on Twitter. The album was an apple music exclusive, although it was leaked to Datpiff previously. This marks a change for Chance as it is his first commercial album. Previous albums were released on soundcloud and datpiff. This release, however, comes in the same week that Chance promoted a petition to change the rules of Grammy nomination which require sale of the album. This rule, most likely, caused the change in release style. The track “Blessings” on the current album includes the line “I don’t release my music for free, I release it for freedom.” Which leaves fans wondering if the change is a sellout?

Other artists such as Taylor Swift, Adele and Lily Allen have all spoken out against streaming services such as Apple Music, Tidal and Spotify. The services give artists less profit than traditional album sales. In fact, artists receive as little as .6 cents on some services. These key players believe artists should be paid for their work which is hard to conceptualize considering the wealth and status they hold in the industry. However, being paid fairly for work is not radical idea. Streaming music keeps the industry on par with the digital age, but at a high cost for artists. Experts are wondering; what does it mean for the future?

So what does this mean for us? Should we pony up a hundred bucks a month to hop from Spotify to Apple Music to Amazon Prime to Rdio to Tidal and back again to hear all our favorite jams? Hopefully, new policies will be put in place to help artists get their fair share on streaming services without costing us limbs to listen. Musicians make music to share and we are eager ears. Eventually we’ll reach a compromise. Music streaming services are the future of the industry for now and artists should get on board or get left behind. Integration of music videos, exclusive content and curation will allow users a more comprehensive experience in the coming years.

Musicians who are in the “long tail” of media struggle with this most which makes it increasingly difficult to start without the backing of a label. The growing popularity of curation doesn’t help you find the newest or even best of what’s out there. Introducing a discover feature that would show music that is up and coming would allow us all more diverse options for our personal tastes.

My suggestion? Chose one and hope that you’re lucky. Or check out some other free streaming sites like SoundCloud, 8tracks, or Grooveshark. These sites have more of a community feel which, with a little digging, allow you to find the newest bands first and fair.

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