Universal Music to ban streaming exclusives after Frank Ocean ‘duped’ them

Ocean’s Apple Music exclusive ‘Endless’ meant he could release ‘proper’ album ‘Blonde’ on his own

The way Frank Ocean released his new album ‘Blonde’ has meant Universal Music are to stop releasing any more albums as streaming exclusives.

Ocean was signed to Universal subsidiary Def Jam, but released ‘Blonde’ on his own independent label. This was because Ocean’s visual album ‘Endless’ was released the day before ‘Blonde’ on Def Jam, as an exclusive for Apple Music.

Although ‘Endless’ features notable guests including Arca and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, the ambient album was intended by Ocean to be a low-key taster for ‘Blonde’, his ‘proper’ new release.


‘Endless’ is available free to stream via Apple Music, but ‘Blonde’ is being sold as a regular commercial album. It was also the subject of Ocean’s much-hyped pop-up shops at the weekend, where it was available as a physical CD as part of the singer’s Boys Don’t Cry magazine.

Financial magazine Forbes has reported that Universal CEO Lucian Grainge has demanded that the label cease any exclusive streaming deals with Apple Music and similar streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal.

Apple Music has previously had albums stream exclusively on the site from Drake, The Avalanches and Chance The Rapper, while Tidal has done exclusive streaming deals with Beyonce, Rihanna and Usher. Spotify has said it doesn’t want to get involved with streaming exclusives.

Forbes say Grainge’s decision is “at least in part” due to the confusion over its Apple Music deal with Ocean. But it’s believed it’s also down to a backlash against streaming exclusives from music fans who don’t want to have to subscribe to multiple streaming services just to be able to hear favourite new albums.