Future and Yung Thug’s new mixtape Super Slimey was released Thursday as an Apple Music exclusive.
The surprise release is an unexpected throwback to what was a major release strategy just a year ago. In 2017, though, such exclusives are almost an aberration, as services like Apple have largely moved away from exclusive drops toward more diverse content like video and interviews. That shift hasn’t been too surprising to those in the music industry.
“I’ve always figured the exclusive stuff would end quickly,” independent rapper Kitty Ray tells Inverse.
For artists like Ray — whose music streams on Spotify and elsewhere — while exclusive album deals may be enticing to big Top 40 artists, she and other independent musicians are cautious about limiting releases to their fans.
“Personally, I’ve always stayed away from exclusive stuff because I don’t want to limit my audience to one streaming platform,” she says.”
Kitty also feels similar musicians probably feel the same, especially while starting out. “I don’t know a lot of other artists who are interested in releasing things exclusively,” she continues, noting that the “big artists” typically “cost a lot.” That’s why only services like Apple and Tidal can afford to exclusively release their content.
This time last year, it seemed like all those big artists were indeed releasing an album exclusively on a digital platform. Drake’s album Views broke records with its exclusive two-week Apple Music rollout. But the trend died down quickly following Views and Beyonce’s Lemonade on Tidal.
Apple Music’s Eddy Cue told Billboard that exclusives would continue “where appropriate,” but that the company is feeling things out, which may explain the Super Slimey release.
“They work really well for everybody concerned — they’re great for the label, they work for the artist and for us,” he said.
Similarly, Apple Music’s Jimmy Iovine also noted that digital album exclusive releases aren’t the answer to the industry’s financial problems.
As of this writing, Super Slimey sits at the top of the Apple Music charts, offering at least temporary life support for the exclusive release trend.