After exiting his deal with Def Jam, leaving behind Universal Music Group and most retailers — both digital and brick-and-mortar — to sign with Apple for an exclusive release, Frank Ocean is on the hunt for a distribution partner to make his Blonde album widely available both digitally and in physical form.
According to sources, Ocean’s camp is searching for a label or distributor that can take the album beyond its iTunes/Apple Music exclusive, which has already generated 292,000 in album sales since its release on Aug. 19, and 123.48 million streams, or 82,000 stream equivalent albums (SEA) for a total of 374,00 album consumption units. (Individual track downloads from Blonde are not yet available.) Ocean’s Endless video album, meanwhile, released through Def Jam on Aug. 1 exclusively at Apple Music, has so far generated 2.19 million streams, or nearly 1,500 SEA.
Once the almost three-week window with Apple passed, Ocean proceeded to cut a direct deal with Spotify that made his new music available on the streaming service on Sept. 9 — and suggesting that he may take a similar route with other digital music services, like Tidal and Amazon, one by one.
But insiders tell Billboard that Ocean is more likely to land on a distribution partner that can cover both digital services and the thousands of brick and mortar music stores around the globe. The frontrunners are believed to be BMG, which also serves as Ocean’s publisher, and Kobalt.
Already a publishing giant, BMG has in the last 12 months proven its might as a label by landing two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200: Blink 182’s California and Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable. Kobalt has also shown itself as a force to be reckoned with, particularly on the publishing side of its business; and its label services arm has made some aggressive deals.
When contacted by Billboard, BMG commented: “BMG is in discussions on a regular basis with a variety of artists, producers and management teams about working together. When we have news to share, we’ll be sure to be in touch.”
Kobalt has yet to respond to a late night request for comment.
Whether Ocean could end up at another major — Universal Music Group being the least likely, due to animosity concerning Blonde and Endless — is less clear. Many who have worked and spent time with Ocean contend that the artist finds corporate input on music-making — and even on marketing — anathema.
Some, however, may not want to work with Ocean — no matter how many records he sells — because of how difficult it is to deal with him. One executive who has worked with him in the past says that if Ocean is looking for a home, he’d pass; and if his label’s fiercest rival was considering making a deal with Ocean, he would do everything in his power to help make that happen.