Platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have become the go-to place music lovers turn to when looking to enjoy the music of their favorite artists.
Where artists are concerned, many feel that they are at the mercy of these platforms when it comes to being heard, even though it can be argued that they don’t compensate artists fairly.
It’s no secret that artists have been revolting against these platforms over the years expressing their displeasure for compensation, music quality, and moral issues.
More recently, we’ve seen artists like Neil Young demanding that his music be removed from Spotify for their distribution of misinformation by podcaster Joe Rogan.
This made us think about the other artists who have either made a stand against streaming platforms or kept their music off these platforms for other specific reasons.
All streaming platforms have notable gaps within their music libraries and in this article we break down 7 popular albums not on streaming platforms.
Frank Ocean – “nostalgia, ULTRA” (2011)
Controversy arose in March 2012 over the song “American Wedding”, a remake of the song “Hotel California” by American rock band The Eagles.
Because of the Eagles’ legal action, Nostalgia, Ultra is still unavailable on Spotify & Apple Music, even a decade since its release.
It is considered one of the most famous and acclaimed albums not to be accessible on streaming services.
Kanye West – “The Life of Pablo” (2016)
The rapper’s 7th solo LP had a messy rollout and was originally exclusive to Tidal.
Kanye once said TLOP would never go on sale and is a living artwork, so it was unclear if or when it would ever arrive on other streaming platforms.
This was in February of 2016 but that all changed in April of that year when the album went live across all streaming platforms.
Adele – “25” (2015)
In October 2015, Adele's album “25” was rumored to be released which had many major artists like One Direction, Justin Bieber, and more scrambling to avoid chart competition with her.
To make things even more interesting, Adele decided to keep her new album off of streaming services initially.
“I don’t use streaming,” she told TIME after the album’s release. “I buy my music. I download it, and I buy a physical copy just to make up for the fact that someone else somewhere isn’t.”
Lucky for her, driving fans toward CDs and digital downloads helped 25 sell a whopping 8 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Jay-Z – *Majority of His Catalog
Once Jay-Z bought the streaming service Tidal in 2015, it was only a matter of time before he started using his own catalog to entice subscribers.
Throughout 2015 and 2016 he quietly began pulling his music from streaming platforms except for Tidal of course.
However, in 2019 and in celebration of his 50th birthday, Jay-Z brought his music discography back to the world’s largest streaming platforms, leaving Tidal subscribers scratching their heads.
Radiohead – “In Rainbows” (2007)
Both 2007’s In Rainbows and the band’s 2016 LP, A Moon Shaped Pool, were missing from Spotify despite being available on rival services like Apple Music and TIDAL.
Undoubtedly, the decision was tied to Thom Yorke’s belief that Spotify was not fairly compensating artists.
In 2013, the Radiohead frontman publicly came out against the platform, calling it “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse” and “gatekeepers” of music.
As such, Yorke pulled his own solo catalog from Spotify in addition to withholding the self-released In Rainbows.
Dr. Dre – “Compton” (2015)
Despite him being a legendary West Coast icon, Dr. Dre's third studio album was not made available everywhere.
“Compton” was originally an Apple Music exclusive, which is no surprise given the headphone deal Dre has with Apple.
However, Compton would later make its way to TIDAL.
The album spent many years not being available on Spotify until more recent years when it was made available in 2019.
Aaliyah – “One In a Million” (1996)
In 1996, Aaliyah released her second studio album “One In A Million.”
Her success was cut short when she and others died on Aug. 25, 2001, in a plane crash in the Bahamas. She was on her way home from filming a music video at the time of her death and was sadly only 22 years old.
Over the years, there has been a bitter battle between the late singer's estate and her former record label Blackground Records over the release of her music, which was not available on streaming platforms until recently.
But in 2021 the record label released her catalog on all major streaming platforms which was met with mixed feelings about the decision.
Key things to note from these 7 popular albums not on streaming platforms
- Spotify became available in the US back in 2011 and as its popularity grew in the years that followed many artists were revolting against the platform.
- The strategy of making your music exclusive to one platform or medium isn’t foolproof. It worked well for Adele who focused on digital downloads and physical sales of “25” but Dr. Dre’s decision to release Compton exclusive to Apple is said to have hindered sales/streams.
- The majority of these artists eventually made moves to get their music uploaded to the major streaming platforms.
- We mention that the “artist” made these decisions which should be taken with a grain of salt as the artist isn’t always in control of where their music is placed depending on the type of deal they are in or agreements they may have signed. A perfect example of this is how Neil Young recently requested to have his music removed from Spotify but the final decision had to be made by his label.
- It’s interesting how that revolt against streaming platforms has certainly gotten quieter over the years and more unique partnerships are emerging with these platforms. (For example, the Kanye “Donda” listening events with Apple)