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Is the new album from Frank Ocean the beginning of the end of the discography industry?

Emily 1 de December del 2016 celebrities
Frank Ocean has taken four years to complete “Blond”, a great album that has achieved several things in its early days so far. It has given a million dollars to Ocean in a week, it has strengthened Apple Music, and above all, it has shown that records are increasingly showing up less and less in our world.

But let’s go one step at a time. On July 10, 2012, “Channel Orange” went on sale as a “debut album”. (In quotes because Ocean already had a mixtape, “Nostalgia Ultra”). It quickly became album of the year despite much of its criticism. It sold more than 620,000 copies between 2012 and 2014 under the Def Jam label.

Def Jam is a legendary name in hip-hop music. It’s an indie label created in 1984 by Rick Rubin, whose first two singles from debut artists, LL Cool J and Beastie Boys, entered hard as a rock in the music scene. But that was in 1984, before Rubin would receive the kick inside his own home by Sony and then from Universal, which is the current owner of the label, which manages Kanye, Ludacris, Iggy Azalea and Justin Bieber.

As for financial interest, Forbes says Frank Ocean took between $1.50 and $2 for every sale of “Channel Orange”. In the best case, Ocean would have taken slightly less than $1,250,000 for the first record in the first two years.

Frank Ocean album Apple Music

Changes in the hip-hop music industry

Fast forward to 2016: On August 20, “Blond” debuts with 276,000 albums sold in its first week. Ocean created the label, Boys Don’t Cry, himself for self-producing.

Suddenly, the artist takes 70%, at least in iTunes (Apple takes 30% of each sale). In other words, from $5-$7 depending on the platform. Ocean would have taken between $1.4 and $2 million in one week (more than all the cumulative sales of “Channel Orange”).

And that’s not counting the exclusivity agreement with Apple Music, where songs from “Blonde” were heard more than 65 million times on streaming during that first week.

Apple’s plan is simple: Apple Music is the streaming service, which has grown rapidly worldwide. And, to go directly to artists like Ocean, people pay subscriptions to services like Apple Music. These services may overcome the record labels (whose current role is unclear). Also, because between 2012 and 2014, when “Channel Orange” sold these 671,000 records, iTunes dethroned physical sales in the United States.

But today, the situation has changed: streaming is the real battlefield in a year in which only three artists (Drake, Adele, and Beyoncé) have surpassed one million copies sold. “Copies sold” is an expression coming from a language that has been dead for years. The only ones who still understand it are the labels.

In Ocean’s war against Def Jam, the “rescue” that Apple has made is the first of something much more interesting: a future in which streaming services make something like what Netflix already does. Apple can plan something better than the major labels. For the simple reason that Apple is a tech company with a billion devices in the pockets and homes of people. Universal doesn’t have this advantage.

In other words: imagine a world in which it is Apple who would produce a disc for Adele instead of Sony. This disc never goes on sale physically or digitally, however. And it can only be heard in perpetuity on one site, in exchange for a monthly subscription. A world in which the record business ceases to have meaning forever. “Blond” is indeed a great album, yes, but only for now. In a few years, the word album itself might be obsolete.

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