When is a streaming exclusive not an exclusive? That’s the existential question now underpinning the release of Everything In Love, the new album from Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Like 2016’s Lemonade by Beyoncé, it launched first on Tidal (on Saturday); unlike 2016’s Lemonade by Beyoncé, it ended up on Spotify by Monday (seemingly windowed for premium users for a fortnight), Apple Music and Pandora. It also landed on Amazon Music for download. It’s even on SoundCloud. So an exclusive window that ran for less than two days. What can we even call that? An “ex-exclusive”?
Tidal’s two biggest backers giving their new album to it as an exclusive was hardly a surprise. What was a surprise was how quickly it was made available on rival streaming services. Which begs the question: what are they trying to achieve here?
On the one hand, it barely had time to register in the media/on social media that there was a new album to play on Tidal (given it was a surprise release) before it was available elsewhere, so it was unlikely to significantly drive up subscriber and trialist numbers as people stampeded to Tidal to hear it.
Maybe it’s there as a comforter to existing Tidal users – that they will get certain albums before everyone else, even if it’s only for two days. Or maybe there’s something else coming – something bigger – and this is just the warm up act. Given Tidal’s flip-flopping on exclusives in the past (holding firm with some and taking a very light approach with others), we’d not want to rule anything out.