Kanye West And The Streaming Arms Race West said his latest album would only ever be available on Tidal. Now that fans can hear it on other streaming services, he faces a lawsuit alleging he "tricked" people into signing up.
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Kanye West And The Streaming Arms Race

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Kanye West And The Streaming Arms Race

Kanye West And The Streaming Arms Race

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Kanye West sometimes gets himself in trouble with what he says on Twitter. Now, one of his tweets might get used against him in court. Back in February, he tweeted that his new album, "The Life Of Pablo, would only be available on the streaming service Tidal and, quote, "never, never, never on Apple." Well, never, never, never lasted about six weeks. You can now listen to "The Life Of Pablo" on Apple Music and on Spotify. And this week, a lawsuit was filed in federal court alleging that people were tricked into signing up for Tidal. To talk about what this means, we reached Marc Hogan, senior staff writer at Pitchfork. Thanks for being on the show today.

MARC HOGAN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

MCEVERS: OK, briefly, what do we know about the details of this lawsuit? Who is suing Kanye West?

HOGAN: It's a proposed class-action. So it's - a fan of Kanye West was suing Tidal and Kanye West and Jay-Z, who owns Tidal, and - basically on behalf of the fans who were supposedly tricked into signing up for Tidal to hear the album.

MCEVERS: I mean, it seems like a lot of people were annoyed, you know? They put their credit card information in; they signed up for Tidal when they could've just waited. I guess the question is, is that worthy of a lawsuit?

HOGAN: I mean, that's kind of up to the court to find, but, I mean, it was almost inevitable. It seems like one of those things where, you know, he goes out and he says never, never, never - I love the three nevers - when you say that and then you reverse on it and people have been giving their credit card info, you know, somebody's going to sue you nowadays. So it was only a matter of time, I guess.

MCEVERS: With all these streaming services, it seems like there's kind of an arms race for the exclusive, you know, just to find a way to stand out among the competition. How does that fit into the new business model in music?

HOGAN: It's really fascinating. I mean, you do have an arms race with the exclusives for streaming services. You've got - you know, Tidal is not just Kanye. They had, you know, a Rihanna exclusive. Drake's new album is coming out exclusively on Apple Music. But what's fascinating is that Spotify, which still has the most paid subscribers - I believe it's 30 million - they don't really play the exclusive game, so...

MCEVERS: Yeah, I mean, so does that mean that the exclusive thing really isn't necessarily a business model that's going to work going forward, you think?

HOGAN: The exclusives model does seem to be a way to stand out, especially if you're trying to compete with an already-established player. And, I mean, when you look at the video space - Netflix or Amazon or even, you know, HBO - I mean, all of these services compete over exclusives. So it makes sense, but I don't know. When you think about music, the exclusives might still be a small sliver of overall music fans, you know?

MCEVERS: What's Kanye saying about all this?

HOGAN: I don't believe he's said anything publicly about it yet. It's one of those things - I mean, I reached out to his camp for comment, and I didn't hear anything back. I mean, he's always saying things.

MCEVERS: Right (laughter).

HOGAN: But, you know, the lawsuit - I don't think he's spoken about it. You know, Kanye does what Kanye wants, and it's always fascinating to watch, so...

MCEVERS: You just have to wonder how the next release will happen for him.

HOGAN: Yeah. I mean, what do you do? How do you follow this? I mean, this is an album that he's been kind of tinkering with after it was released, and then he keeps changing even where it is released. It's definitely unique.

MCEVERS: Do you know what the next step in this lawsuit is?

HOGAN: Well, actually I was just checking online today. And it looks like, right now, they're serving the papers to, you know, Kanye and Jay-Z, so, you know, good luck, I guess, finding them and serving the case to them. But that was the next step.

MCEVERS: I would love to know who that guy is who gets to knock on the door.


HOGAN: Right? Yeah, bring a video camera and see what the reaction is.

MCEVERS: See what happens. That's Marc Hogan. He's senior staff writer at Pitchfork. Thanks a lot.

HOGAN: Thank you very much, Kelly.

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