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Bloomberg: Spotify buries artists with Apple and Tidal exclusives (updated)

The streaming service reportedly makes music harder to find and keeps it out of playlists.
Billy Steele
08.26.16
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Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Another week has passed with another high-profile exclusive debuting on Apple Music. As it does each time an artist keeps a new album off its service, Spotify reiterated this week that those exclusives are "bad for the whole industry." According to a report from Bloomberg though, the company isn't stopping there with its anti-exclusive stance. Bloomberg sources indicate that Spotify is retaliating against artists to release their new music on Apple's service first by making those tracks harder to find when they do become available. Those sources say the strategy includes keeping songs off of featured playlists and burying them in search rankings. Spotify declined to comment on the report to Engadget. A Spotify representative told Engadget that the report "is unequivocally false."

Bloomberg's sources also indicate that artists who have released new materials exclusively on Tidal are being treated similarly by Spotify, but specific names were not disclosed. The outlet does cite one unnamed artist who didn't debut a new song on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show on Apple Music for fear of retaliation from Spotify. While Apple looks to continue to gain ground on Spotify's 30 million subscriber tally, exclusive releases have provided it with a way to keep pace. This summer alone Apple Music debuted new albums from Drake, Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean before they were available anywhere else.

Any added turmoil over exclusives couldn't come at a worse time for Spotify. Today's Bloomberg report reiterates that the company is still in negotiations with labels over new licensing deals and need those in place before filing for an IPO. A key point of contention between the two sides is having music released for paying subscribers only rather than having everything also available on the ad-supported free tier. Those record labels may be getting fed up with the exclusive debuts as well. At least one of the three major imprints in the US feels that way, based on a Billboard report.

Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge reportedly told his label heads that it would no longer allow platform exclusives just days after Frank Ocean released Blond independently with Apple. Ocean fulfilled his contractual obligations to Def Jam (a Universal label) just 24 hours prior with the Endless visual album.

Update: Despite declining to comment on the matter to Engadget before this article was published, a Spotify representative now tells us that the basis of Bloomberg's report "is unequivocally false," but didn't elaborate any further.

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