— Apple Music (@AppleMusic) August 19, 2016
Frank Ocean still hasn’t dropped his anticipated Boys Don’t Cry album yet, but he did release something. The R&B artist is airing what’s being called a visual album as an Apple Music exclusive. The 45-minute video, titled Endless, shows Ocean working in a warehouse that also served as the setting for some live streams.
A few other artists, most notably Beyoncé, have also released visual albums in advance of or along with their music album launches, so fans are hoping that the new studio project is around the corner. Boys Don’t Cry is also expected to be an exclusive, marking another big get for Apple Music.
This year has been a milestone for artists experimenting with unique distribution methods. Rihanna had a deal with Samsung to give away free copies of Anti through Tidal before the album went to other streaming services. As previously mentioned, Beyoncé released Lemonade along with a film of the same name. And just this week, David Gray and his label launched a dynamic take on the traditional best-of album as a regularly updated Spotify playlist.
Artist-driven distribution adds another wrinkle to how streaming services might choose to pursue exclusive releases. Creating a layered, multimedia experience for fans could pose a technical challenge, but the platforms that can meet those needs for music creators could build a reputation as artist-friendly. When the performers feel valued, then their fans might be more likely to also focus their subscription budgets and their listening hours on the services those artists endorse.