Frank Ocean’s Blonde is a convoluted mess at this point.
The music on the album is some of the best 2016’s had to offer thus far. But, the business side of Blonde is proving to be somewhat of a thorn in Ocean’s side that could get worse if Universal Music Group decides they want to sue the singer.
It all comes down to windows, a term we’ll be hearing more and more about when it comes to album releases, as if consumers hadn’t heard it enough already. When Ocean released Endless then followed it up with Blonde, most industry types framed the move as one that finished off his contractual obligations to Def Jam/Universal. Endless was his last project for them, Blonde became an indie release. Seemed like pretty savvy moves.
But, just like online album releases come complete with windows allowing one streaming service to hold complete exclusivity over a project, so do album release periods for record labels in a similar sense. According a report by Billboard, Ocean may have violated old rules typically written into contracts that stipulate full projects can’t be released in close proximity to one another. Labels follow this pattern so one project isn’t forced to compete with the other for resources, fan attention, etc.
In Ocean’s case, he set up Endless to compete against Blonde. Stop for a second and think: which one of the two projects are people really discussing on social media? Which one have media outlets flocked to? The answer shows the potential reason UMG would be irked a bit.
The report does go on to note that Universal hasn’t taken any action against Ocean yet, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.
The “controversial” decision to release two albums so closely together seems like it would have been one the singer and, more specifically, his team would have researched thoroughly before even considering the move, no matter what carrot Apple dangled in front of them. As much as artists and everyone involved in the music industry is learning to adapt to these new rules, they should remember that the old rules still apply to a varying degrees.