Last week was unique – and possibly prescient – for the music industry as Future's Apple Music exclusive EVOL topped the Billboard 200 at the same time that Kanye West dropped his The Life of Pablo as a Tidal-only stream. Rihanna's Anti, also a Tidal exclusive despite its botched delivery, also managed to hit Number One on the Billboard 200.
It's no surprise that these high-profile releases are landing exclusively on subscription-based streaming services, and as Sony Entertainment chief Michael Lynton told the Code/Media conference Thursday, this "windowing" could be how the music industry operates from now on.
"Going forward, you will see some version of windowing in the music industry," Lynton said (via Billboard). Lynton added that, from Sony's perspective, they're more likely to team with subscription-based streaming services, like Apple Music or Tidal, than "freemium" models like Spotify. "The kind of a service that we would like to see, going forward, is a subscription service," Lynton said. "You're going to be able to hear the music first in a subscription service and then later in a free service."
Following Lynton's comments, Spotify's global head of communications Jonathan Prince spoke to the Verge about the service's stance on exclusives. "Artists want as many fans as possible to hear their music, and fans want to be able to hear whatever they're excited about or interested in – exclusives get in the way of that for both sides," Prince said. "Of course, we understand that short promotional exclusives are common and we don't have an absolute policy against them, but we definitely think the best practice for everybody is wide release."
Apple Music and Tidal, two big-name streaming services that are both less than a year old, have engaged in an arms race to recruit talent since their births, with Apple aligning with the likes of Drake, Future, Dr. Dre and Pharrell while the Jay Z-led Tidal has Beyoncé, West, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Jack White, Prince and Lil Wayne among its many co-owners. Although Spotify reportedly had over 75 million active users as of June 2015, the service has not joined the fight to accrue exclusive content from A-list talent.