Exclusive streaming deals are becoming a new norm for artists, and for fair reason. Streaming platforms including Apple Music and Spotify often pay huge sums for an exclusive deal, and that money can be put towards promotion, video production, touring expenses, and general profit. The downside, however, is becoming increasingly clear. Labels are already pissed, fans gripe about having their access limited, and illegal pirating skyrockets.
It happened earlier this year when Kanye West dropped The Life of Pablo originally as a TIDAL exclusive; the album set a record on its way to No. 1, but it was also illegally downloaded an unprecedented 500,000 times in its first week of release.
The next record expected to top the charts is now facing an even more alarming uptick in illegal downloads. Frank Ocean’s Blonde looks to take the top spot with an impressive 225,000 to 250,000 equivalent album units (via Billboard), but that pales in comparison to its download data. According to information “piracy audience reconnection specialist” MUSO presented to Music Business Worldwide, Blonde has been illegally downloaded 753,849 times in the UK alone as of noon on August 25th. That means in less than a week, Blonde was downloaded illegally over two-thirds more times than it was legally purchased or streamed.
There’s long been an argument that streaming somehow leads to more illegal downloads. At least in this case, it would certainly seem that exclusive streaming rights do indeed increase pirating numbers.