In 2016, Kanye West released his highly acclaimed album ‘The Life of Pablo’. Soon after the record’s release, Kanye said in a since-deleted Tweet:
“My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale…You can only get it on TIDAL.”
Now, if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that Kanye West says a lot of things. Sure enough, in less than a couple of weeks, ‘The Life of Pablo’ appeared on Apple Music and Spotify – which was pretty annoying for those who’d parted with their $9.99 per month for TIDAL access.
However, one fan decided to hold him to his word. In early April 2016, Justin Baker-Rhett filed a lawsuit against the rapper in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. In a statement, Baker-Rhett’s lawyer Jay Edelson explains why his client felt so strongly about the situation:
“We fully support the right of artists to express themselves freely and creatively, however, creative freedom is not a license to mislead the public…We believe that we will be able to prove to a jury that Mr. West and Tidal tricked millions of people into subscribing to their services and that they will ultimately be held accountable for what they did.”
What’s more, Kanye’s actions were symptomatic of the streaming service exclusivity wars that were playing out at the time. TIDAL, in particular, was trying to carve out a niche by providing more favorable deals for artists, thus attracting a number of big names to their platform. Despite good intentions, all this bartering resulted in a big headache for fans who were being asked to sign up to a new service seemingly every five minutes.
However, despite Baker-Rhett’s honorable crusade, the case has now been settled out of court. Although the terms of the deal haven’t been made public, the court documents state:
“Hereby stipulate and agree to the dismissal of Plaintiff’s [Baker-Rhett] individual claims with prejudice and the putative class’s claims without prejudice, with each party to bear its own attorney fees and costs.”
Since the fallout from the exclusivity wars of 2016, Apple and Spotify have drawn up more artist-centric deals with record labels. As a result, many musicians have warmed up to the streaming market, realizing that it’s now pretty fundamental to the success of their records. Whilst there are some artists that retain exclusive deals – like Drake’s multi-million dollar deal with Apple – it’s now pretty unusual for albums to only be available on one platform.
However, even if Ye has had to pay out to Baker-Rhett, it would seem that there’s no love lost between the controversial rapper and TIDAL. Last year, the rapper cut ties with Jay-Z’s streaming service after claiming the company owed him $3 million.