This is making me think a lot of stuff.
First: you’re bang on about this being analogous to cloud software. It’s not even like updates to an app — it’s more like a new version of Gmail or something. Album-as-a-service. Buying it isn’t like buying a thing at all, it’s more like subscribing to this particular pocket of Kanye-space.
Second: it makes me think about the precedents with ebooks, particularly discussion of Kindle and how you don’t own books there, just license them. Purchase the right to read them. Publishers are free to upload new versions, or even pull books you’ve bought. Except you didn’t. c.f, for example, http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/do-you-ever-own-your-e-books, http://iscroll-primary.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2009/07/why_2024_will_be_like_nineteen_eightyfour.html
Third: and this is the least well-formed thought, it makes me think about pointers, totems. That thing we were all talking about with IoT, where the product isn’t what you’re buying, it’s the business model and infrastructure provided by a given company with any given product just the pointy end of a much larger system. A touchpoint. Kanye’s touchpoint.
Pointers, pointers. Artworks have a continuing existence ~somewhere~ and we collect pointers to them. As opposed to owning a dead, static copy, a snapshot of how it was at one point in time.
Oh, hang on a sec. It’s just like fiat currency, that idea that paper cash has no value in itself, it’s a reference to some value elsewhere. Fiat culture. Promise to play the bearer one Kanye album.