With the full roll-out of JAY-Z’s new 4:44 album unfolding over the last week, the new release now appears to be available on most major streaming platforms—including Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal (of course) —along with one rather conspicuous exception: Spotify. The new album has yet to appear on the music streaming market leader’s platform (with 140 million active users) as of tonight (7/6) at 9:00 p.m. PST when the album appeared on other services.
JAY-Z’s move to hold his album from Spotify isn’t exactly a surprise. In April, he removed his entire catalog from the service without explaining why. Some theorized at the time it was because the streaming service’s ad-based freemium tier paid less than subscriber-only services—which may have been what spurred him to launch his own music streaming service with Tidal in March of 2015. The move may also have been a way to drive his fans to his own platform ahead of Tidal’s week-long exclusive launch of 4:44.
In the past, other acts from Taylor Swift to Adele have withheld albums from Spotify because of its longstanding practice of making all its music available to both its free users and paying subscribers.
But with Universal Music’s latest negotiations with Spotify this past April, the world’s largest music company worked out a deal whereby artists could restrict music to Spotify’s premium tier, sources tell Billboard, potentially driving greater revenues. Apparently, however, that option was not invoked for 4:44‘s release.
Meanwhile, IHeartMedia, SiriusXM and Pandora can play JAY-Z’s tunes thanks to the compulsory licenses that the federal government issues to terrestrial, satellite and internet radio companies.
MusicWatch Inc. analyst Russ Crupnick tells Billboard he didn’t expect the album’s exclusive week on JAY-Z’s Tidal service to move the needle much for Tidal or its new stakeholder, Sprint. With between 1 million and 1.5 million subscribers, Crupnick estimates, “there’s not much of a needle to move,” and consumers are now unlikely to sign up for a streaming service in order to access the work of a single artist, he said.
Spotify, Universal Music Group and Jay-Z’s reps declined to comment for this story
For those keeping score, 4:44 initially dropped last Friday (June 30) and was available exclusively for the first week only to Tidal subscribers who had signed up for the service before June 26 and for others who after its release signed up via a promotional tie-in with Sprint. That tie-in was part of a $200 million deal inked this past January in which Sprint acquired a 33% stake in Tidal. The promotion led to the album almost instantaneously going platinum with Sprint rather than consumers footing the bill for the initial million albums.
Meanwhile, the new JAY-Z tracks streamed on 160 iHeartRadio stations across the U.S. after 4:44‘s release airing until midnight of July 1 on the network’s Urban and Rhythmic formats.
The day of 4:44’s release, news broke that the album would appear on Apple Music following Tidal’s week-long exclusive window and would also be also be available in physical formats.
While it remains unclear if 4:44 will ever appear on Spotify, one thing is for certain: In this ever-evolving music market, Jay has yet again set an example of how artists can change the game.