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Which Artists Are Still Holding Out on Streaming?

on February 24, 2016, 12:00am
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The ins and outs of streaming are apparently more confusing and politically rooted than Donald Trump’s campaign. As we attempted to understand who is still holding out of which service and why — or even better yet, who is holding out only certain albums and why — the most simple answer is that there’s a whole lot of s#!t going on in regards to streaming. Beatles fans rejoiced in December when the group finally joined the streaming revolution, as others mourned the loss of Taylor Swift’s discography from Spotify. And as for Black Keys fans, you won’t find the duo’s two most recent albums, El Camino and Turn Blue, available to stream anywhere though their older work remains fair game. Amid the confusion, one thing has become clear: At the current moment, a library of millions of songs aside, no one streaming service alone can offer everything.

Between legalities and/or lack of lucrative offers, some artists have been struggling to navigate through this (relatively) newfound digital medium while others have fearlessly taken on the role of leader (I’m talking to you, T. Swift), building a platform out of physical sales and standing strong atop it to speak out against unfair payment. Even if proper payment were a guarantee, streaming services would still be in the ring to battle it out over exclusive content. Kanye’s bold claim that his latest album, The Life of Pablo, will “never be for sale” (it was, only briefly, available on Tidal) is evidence of where alliances lie in the sense of streaming, as if Tidal’s lengthy and star-studded list of owners wasn’t indication enough. While Apple Music’s exclusive offer grants artists an outlet (via Beats 1) rather than a piece of the pie.

Yes, it’s enough to make your head spin. But perhaps some relief has arrived. Below is a list of late adopters, if you will … artists who are withholding streaming, in one way or another, and the best explanation possible as to why and how, willingly or not, they are doing so.

–Lyndsey Havens
Staff Writer

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Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift
Apple: Yes
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
Except for 1989

Not many artists have the commercial clout to stand up to music’s middle men, but Taylor Swift has such broad appeal that she’s been able to demand better terms from all of them. Spotify couldn’t afford to meet those terms; bye-bye, Spotify. Apple didn’t want to pay artists during Apple Music’s three-month trial period; Swift wrote them a letter and they caved. The absence of 1989 from Tidal, then, is probably a play for a better deal for her blockbuster album, although the details are hidden behind the scenes. –Wren Graves

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Prince

prince fired questlove finding nemo Which Artists Are Still Holding Out on Streaming?
Apple: Only HitnRun Phase Two
Spotify:
Only “Stare” from HitnRun Phase Two
Tidal:
Yes

“The internet’s completely over,”Prince declared in a 2010 interview with The Mirror. He cited iTunes and YouTube as top predators who devour what should be an artist’s paycheck — which is why he banned both services from using and offering his music (though HitnRun Phase Two is available on iTunes). This in mind, it came as no surprise when Prince pulled his entire discography from every streaming service. What did come as a surprise is when he announced his music would only be available on Tidal — he then used the platform to release both HitnRun Phase One and HitnRun Phase Two as Tidal exclusives. Since its inception, Tidal’s main mission has been to pay artists more fairly, and it does, which is why Prince so strongly supports it as his (sole) streaming platform of choice and continues to shun the rest. –Lyndsey Havens

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Garth Brooks

512_Garth_Brooks_Black_Hat_FINAL
Apple: No
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
No
GhostTunes:
God, yes.

What, you don’t have GhostTunes? The media store created by Garth Brooks that began distributing Garth Brooks’ CDs, Garth Brooks’ digital albums, Garth Brooks’ collectibles, and Garth Brooks’ paraphernalia? The site that describes Garth Brooks as, “Country Music Legend/Icon”? It’s the next big thing, according to Garth Brooks. Country’s version of Tidal (and with a growing roster of musicians), GhostTunes was launched in 2014, and artists like Taylor Swift, AC/DC, and J. Cole have chosen to strike distribution deals. This is probably because GhostTunes pays 80% to the royalty holder and keeps 20% for itself, well below the industry average of 30%. There’s no streaming, so it’s unlikely to attract many of the young and poor, but that might not be the goal. Streaming doesn’t pay as well as albums do, and besides, Garth joked that his 2014-15 shows were “the official wheelchair-and-walker tour.” –Wren Graves

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Bob Seger

BobSeger-badassoldman
Apple: No
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
No

Bob Seger prefers to keep his life somewhat private and moderately simple. He told Rolling Stone he stays off social media because he “has no desire to be that public” and that he stays off of streaming services personally by choice and professionally because of a stalemate that has him frustrated. “I wish people could get any song at any time,” he said in the article, but explained that the ongoing and unresolved issue with streaming lies with his manager and Capitol Records. –Lyndsey Havens

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Tool

Tool-band
Apple: No
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
No

The old “albums vs. singles” debate strikes another blow against streamers. Maynard James Keenan falls squarely in the “albums” category, and fans of Tool have to make a choice: the whole record all at once or nothing at all. It’s interesting to note, however, that this obstinate attitude only extends to Tool; Keenan’s more recent projects A Perfect Circle and Puscifer are both widely available. In the same way that Keenan seems to have left Tool behind him, he has kept the commercial ideas of the period in the past, right where he found them. –Wren Graves

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King Crimson

king crimson
Apple: No
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
No

Guitarist Robert Fripp, the only member to have played in King Crimson since it formed in the late ‘60s, has had a bone to pick with labels regarding unfair payment for nearly as long. One of his more notable injustices can be traced to none other than Kanye West, when West sampled “21st Century Schizoid Man” on his hit “Power”. West’s song racked up over 1 million views on YouTube before Fripp was even approached about granting permission to sample his song. Over the years, Fripp has alluded to several other troubles he has had with Universal Music Group, and refraining from streaming services allows him, and King Crimson as a whole, to maintain some control. So though you can’t stream the group’s debut LP, In the Court of the Crimson King, on any streaming service, you can find The Flaming Lips’ reimagined version of the record if you are feeling desperate. –Lyndsey Havens

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Thom Yorke/Atoms For Peace/In Rainbows

thom yorke villain song fashion week Which Artists Are Still Holding Out on Streaming?
Apple: Yes
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
No

Thom Yorke, who called Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse,” has unsurprisingly withheld his non-Radiohead projects from that service and Tidal. He went on to say, “I feel like as musicians we need to fight the Spotify thing … What’s happening in the mainstream is the last gasp of the old industry. Once that does finally die, which it will, something else will happen.” What is surprising is that he has reached an agreement with Apple Music, perhaps because he thinks the service does a better job of remunerating new artists, his chief complaint with streaming services. Yet his stance on YouTube is perhaps more illustrative; he says that they “steal music,” and true, they do pay out less to artists than every other service. But Yorke doesn’t litigate his videos off the site, as some other entries on our list have chosen to do. Fans can still watch the video for “Black Swan”, but Yorke doesn’t see any of the money. It’s a high-wire act, the balance between getting paid and appeasing fans, but Yorke walks it more gracefully than most. –Wren Graves

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Adele

adele-25-record-sales-month-
Apple: Except for 25
Spotify:
Except for 25
Tidal:
Except for 25

I’m convinced Adele can do no wrong, even when others wrong her, (cough, cough Grammys). So when Adele decided to withhold her record-breaking album, what did every single human do? We paid for it. With money. Adele noted her similar stance on streaming to Swift’s in a recent interview with Time and said she thinks they would both “feel the ability to say yes or no to things even if we weren’t successful.” Fortunately for them both, success seems to come steadily. Though Adele’s two previous records are available to stream (as well as singles “Hello” and “When We Were Young”), the singer now says she feels as though streaming is “disposable” and that “I know that streaming music is the future, but it’s not the only way to consume music.” A statement millions of fans proved to be true. –Lyndsey Havens

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Dr. Dre

Dr Dre Apple
Apple: Yes
Spotify:
Only 2001
Tidal:
Only 2001 and Compton
YouTube:
Yes

Dr. Dre’s messy divorce from Death Row Records stipulated that Dre received the proceeds from digital sales, while Death Row got the sales of physical copies. Streaming, of course, doesn’t involve a sale of any kind, and so The Chronic has sat out the streaming revolution, suspended in legal limbo. Last June, Apple Music finally acquired the G-Funk classic, a year after buying Beats by Dre. Apple has deeper pockets than Spotify and Tidal, and their deals with Dr. Dre – see Compton, which started out as an Apple Music exclusive – are an example of the way they’ve leveraged their resources to beat the competition. –Wren Graves

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De La Soul

De-La-Soul-2015
Apple: Only The Grind Date
Spotify:
Only The Grind Date
Tidal:
Only Smell the D.A.I.S.Y

De La Soul, like many others on this list, are swimming through a pool of legal issues with regards to their music and streaming. Members Kelvin “Posdnous” Mercer and David Jolicoeu spoke with Bloomberg Business back in April and explained that their contracts “didn’t include the world of digital” and that they primarily pertained to vinyl, cassettes, and CDs. Unlike Fripp from King Crimson, there are no hard feelings involved here: “…to rework those contracts to make that language exist for the benefit of the individuals involved, it’s just a process,” Jolicoeur said in the interview with Bloomberg. “It’s a long process to make that happen, that’s why our stuff is pretty much [not] available via the digital world.” In addition to a lengthy legal process, the group have struggled with clearing samples used in their songs, adding to their digital difficulties. In 2014, the group offered their entire discography for free, for 25 hours only, and back in March, the group funded an album entirely through Kickstarter to avoid any constraints in regards to online availability; who knows what will be next. –Lyndsey Havens

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Def Leppard

Rick & Phil

Apple: Sort of
Spotify:
Sort of
Tidal:
Sort of

Frontman Joe Elliott hasn’t kept his opinions to himself, though he wishes he could do so for his songs. Since Universal owns the rights to Def Leppard originals, the group has come up with a semi-solution — to re-record its hits while simultaneously giving the middle finger to Universal. Elliott was rather blunt in a 2013 interview with Classic Rock magazine and said, “We’re trying to wrestle back our career and ownership of these songs. [Universal] owns the originals, we’re at loggerheads with them over the digital rights. And as long as they’re playing silly buggers we’ll just keep recording them again … It’s our life and our music and we’re not going to let them exploit us to the extent that they’re trying to.” So, Def Leppard is “sort of” available on streaming services because their live and re-recorded songs are all offered, while their original works still remained tangled up in turmoil. –Lyndsey Havens

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Neil Young

Neil Young
Apple: Only the Geffen albums (Trans to Life)
Spotify:
Only the Geffen albums (Trans to Life)
Tidal:
Yes

For Neil Young, his issues with streaming services are all about the audio. “I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution,” he said when he announced he was pulling out of streaming services last July. That decision didn’t cover the five albums he made for Geffen Records, presumably because it wasn’t Young’s choice to make. This Tao of Audio is probably what led Young to Tidal, since one of Tidal’s selling points is its superior audio fidelity. –Wren Graves

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Traveling Wilburys

Traveling Wilburys
Apple: No
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
No

Though there is a painfully small amount of information regarding the Traveling Wilburys’ relationship with streaming (for obvious reasons), logic points to the fact that George Harrison’s estate owns the rights to the supergroup’s’ only two albums. Although, with the October and December announcements that Harrison’s solo discography as well as the majority of The Beatles’ discography, respectively, would now be available on all streaming platforms, it’s not entirely unreasonable to think the Traveling Wilburys works would soon follow … and maybe they still will. In an article from ABC, Billboard senior editor Alex Gale said, “I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but obviously the main reason is they didn’t really have to,” in regards to what took so long for The Beatles to join the streamsation. Maybe the remaining members of the Traveling Wilburys feel the same? –Lyndsey Havens

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Drag City Artists

Joanna Newsom
Apple: No
Spotify:
No
Tidal:
No
YouTube:
Yes

Drag City, indie label to off-kilter acts like Joanna Newsom, Silver Jews, Smog, Ty Segall, and Will Oldham, holds the odd philosophy that what is best for an artist and what makes an artist money are not necessarily the same thing. Partially for this reason, and partially because they see Spotify and Tidal as record label cabals conspiring against musicians, they have avoided streaming almost entirely. One notable exception is YouTube, that notoriously stingy video streaming service, on which Drag City has a robust presence. Clearly, as far as this particular indie label is concerned, certain kinds of exposure are more valuable than others. –Wren Graves

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