Is Exclusivity a Bad Thing? Eh...yes and no.

This is a rant. It will probably evolve into something different as the piece goes on, as I'm writing it as I'm processing some things. I apologize to anyone who I'll probably offend with my words. I also apologize if there's no real structure to my thoughts.

But, for the love of pie, can we 86 the "exclusive release" shtick artists are giving us now? For an industry that's seemingly evolving, the music business is still stuck back in the days of "let's give the 'Target Version' of an album some bonus tracks so listeners will have to buy, like, three versions of the project." In 2016, we've seen so-called "exclusive" releases from Kanye, Rihanna, Beyonce, Drake (Views from the 6 is dropping Friday), and others. On top of that, we've seen artists such as Prince have their entire discography placed, in some ways, behind a paywall due to The Purple One's exclusivity deal with Tidal before his death.

Now, I get it. You want to give fans that rush, that sense of connection. Having an album everywhere kind of takes away from that. Additionally, artists, even those who live in luxury, are doing this as a job (even if it becomes a hobby). Therefore, of course, they're going to want the most financially responsible outpouring for their work. If that means that TLOP will be released through "Tidal only," technically, there's nothing really wrong with that. So, artists, I get where you're coming from. As a (former?) artist myself, I understand the need to get what you feel is proper compensation for your work and to build that "connection" with your fan base.

But, after a while, it feels more like a gimmick than anything. For instance, going back to Kanye's TLOP. We were told that the album would never be released for sale after it dropped and that it'd always stay a Tidal exclusive. A few weeks later, the album gets dropped on Spotify, Apple Music, and more. I celebrate because I don't have to deal with Tidal anymore (I'm sorry; it's still one of the worst streaming services out there aside from, say, Soundcloud Go). But, I feel cheated because I, like others, signed up for Tidal to stream the album legally. Additionally, like the lawsuit brought against Kanye and his team over TLOP's "exclusivity," I feel cheated because the artist himself said "oh, this'll never drop anywhere else" then it randomly drops almost everywhere.

This isn't a gripe as a penny-pincher. If I love the music, and it's worth my time, I'll follow it wherever it goes. Shoot, I have different Prince albums on every music service. I bought Dilla's Donuts on just about every format available (including CD). I bought Take Care on Google Play (one of my first Google Play purchases) even though, even with an Android phone, I didn't fully understand how it worked in 2011. I went out and, around the time of his death, bought a lot of Michael Jackson's older, pre-Off the Wall stuff that I couldn't find online or elsewhere. So, again, if it's worth the money, you'll probably follow it.

You know what, even though I REALLY want to stream Purple Rain on Spotify right now, maybe Prince was right, kind of.

Now, I'm not saying "oh, let's just have everything on one platform." It's kind of limiting. But, this is music. These tracks are the lifeblood of these artists and their expressions of self. If it's really worth its weight, you probably will follow it everywhere it goes because it's worth the "hassle."

Do I want to have to pay for every streaming service/digital music provider/CD compilation known to man to complete my collections? Hell, no. However, if an artist is out here giving us everything they've got and we're fans? Like they "owe" it to fans to make their music available in some way, as listeners and fans, we kind of owe it to the artists to track down their discography (legally, if possible; there are some times where a bootleg is the only way you'll hear a song. Am I advocating bootlegs all the world over? No. But, there are exceptions that, as a listener--and an artist--I understand).

So, to bring it on home (finally, I know), is exclusivity a bad thing outright? No. Is it limiting to how many people can access your stuff? Maybe. Do I wish every artist put their stuff on every streaming platform? Kind of. But, I know that Spotify sometimes doesn't pay as much as it theoretically could (I know this from an artist and a listener standpoint). Shoot, I'm still trying to work through the kinks behind streaming and digital downloads like everyone else. So, no, I don't have the answers here. All I know is that, if it's good, I'll cop it wherever it is. If it ain't worth my time, it's not for me (even if it is available everywhere).

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