From Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade to Drake’s VIEWS and, most recently, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, it seems like every major album is being diced up between Tidal or Apple Music as an “exclusive” release. It’s good news for such top tier artists, who are pocketing millions in exclusivity deals with the streaming companies, but bad news for us fans, who are being forced to pay for numerous streaming subscriptions just to listen to all our favorite music as soon as it drops.

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However, it appears one of the biggest monopolies in the music industry are pulling their troops out of this increasingly competitive streaming war. According to Bob Lefsetz’s latest newsletter, Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grange issued a company-wide email this week ordering his labels to stop negotiating exclusive distribution deals with streaming services like Tidal, Apple Music and Spotify.

The UMG umbrella includes some of the biggest labels in hip-hop including Def Jam, Cash Money and Interscope, and accordingly, artists like Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Meanwhile, Frank Ocean’s Endless, which reportedly fulfilled his contract with Def Jam (Blonde was an independent release under his Boys Don’t Cry imprint), could be the last streaming exclusive we’ll see from Universal Music Group.

UPDATE: According to Billboard, Universal Music Group may have grounds to sue Frank Ocean for dropping Blonde (an independent release set to top the charts) 24 hours after Endless (his final album on Def Jam).

But to release another full-length, fully-realized album outside the label’s purview just 24-hours later is controversial, to say the least, and a source tells Billboard that while UMG hasn’t taken any legal action against Ocean or his team, the label group may have grounds to do so. (Sources close to the situation at both Def Jam and Universal Music say that no legal action against Ocean is currently being considered.)

For one, many record contracts are based on minimum-delivery clauses, meaning that if Ocean’s deal was just for two albums, he typically would have had to deliver them within a set time frame, and at a label-acceptable level of quality, in order to fulfill his contract. In addition, most recording contracts stipulate a window of time during which an artist can’t release music on any other label, so as not to compete with the current project — in this case, Def Jam’s Endless. By delivering Blond within just 24 hours, it raises the question of whether Universal even knew it was coming — and what they could have done about it regardless.

[The Guardian]

Related: Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’ LP Set To Debut No. 1 on Billboard