Apple was thrilled to announce that the latest album from so-called streaming pawn Drake, 'Views From The 6' had surpassed a billion streams. Good news for Apple surely, but is the new streaming economy allowing artists like Drake to coast with little effort, while lesser-known talent struggles for exposure?
Guest post by Rob Oscar on Music Regista
Apple Music was in balling mood yesterday announcing Drake's 'Views From The 6' as the first album to reach a billion streams on their service. Drake posted a picture on Instagram posing with the equivalent of a plaque accompanied by the big dawg Tim Cook, Eddy Cue and chief artist-friendly person Larry Jackson celebrating another milestone in the battle for streaming supremacy like proud fathers.
Frankly, I’m sure Drake isn’t too concerned about his position within this giant ego fest that is music streaming. I guess $19 million in the bank and a bankrolled tour and short-film would make most things fly over your head. The money also serves to mute the opinions of those who critique the art. The music, remember that? The artistic creation that is supposed to be the most important component, or maybe it isn’t to some.
Music experts including self-professed Drake stan Joe Budden will tell you that Drake has been on cruise control for quite a few years. Evidence surfaced of his use of various ghostwriters to construct his rhymes that served to reinforce this point of view. Further evidence of this is the peculiar popularity of 'Views' of which some opinions I respect have called a ‘snooze-fest’, ‘uninspiring’ and ‘wave riding of the highest degree’. Others have been more kind in their assessment nevertheless, what can't be denied is the popularity of singles 'One Dance' and 'Controlla' and Drake’s consistency in tapping into popular culture.
Drake has become the ubiquitous artist of the streaming era; an era where the single has become king and where the playlist has leapfrogged the album in terms of listenership. Drake has reached a level of popularity that the quality of his music no longer matters. His popularity has been leveraged by Apple Music to help propel their claims to being the premier player in the streaming landscape despite still trailing Spotify in terms of total number of paying subscribers.
Apple now wants us to believe that they care about the artists too. Evidence being this image displaying Drake as a shining example of an artist choosing to release his music through their service. The presence of Larry Jackson strategically positioned as the 'friend to the artists' shows Apple are really doing 'the most' to come across as the 'cool dad' and the new frontier record label.
No sooner had Drake posted image on Instagram, Spotify ensured they were not forgotten on this momentous day by letting it be known that 'Views' had racked up 2 billion streams despite the windowed release of the album exclusively on Apple Music for the first two weeks.
It's little wonder why Aubrey feels like the all-conquering ‘top shotta’ he longs to identify with and awkwardly depicts in his short film/extremely long video ‘Please Forgive Me’ paid for by the good people of Apple.
It may seem like I'm being harsh and cynical but I believe artists at the top level in the current music landscape have power to really affect how the music industry evolves. You could say it should be viewed as a responsibility especially within an industry that is finding its feet again and is searching for the best solutions for all. Tidal had good intentions but poor execution from a marketing standpoint and few can know what the true motives of Kanye West's twitter rant imploring Apple to cut Jay Z a check for Tidal to help bring down the digital curtain that currently exists.
Something needs to be done because for me as a consumer it's getting boring and the music will be the one to suffer. Without question an artist of the standing of Drake should take care of him first but for the sake of the wider community things need to change. The consumer experience is fragmented, the charts don't move and new artists will struggle to cut through amongst the sea of endless playlists.