Jay-Z rarely does anything without a flourish, and apparently as a 50 th birthday present to himself, the billionaire has returned his catalog to Spotify after an absence of nearly three years.
Back in April of 2017, Jay, who is the primary owner of the competing Tidal platform, pulled most of his catalog from the world’s most popular streaming service without explanation. One theory was that it was an effort to drive subscribers to Tidal in advance of his “4:44” album, another was that he was unhappy with Spotify’s royalty rates, or maybe it was just one of his many successful efforts to get attention (this is a man whose removal of the hyphen from his name, and its later return, actually was considered news in many quarters). He did leave his first four albums, among his most popular, up on the service: “Reasonable Doubt,” “In My Lifetime” vols. 1 and 2 and “Collision Course,” his 2004 album with Linkin Park. But now they’re all back.
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Reps for Jay and Spotify did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment, but a source close to the situation said the two camps had been in discussions for some time; presumably the birthday simply provided a good news hook.
While streaming exclusives were wielded as marketing weapons a few years ago, artists and labels have largely backed off of the practice for recorded music. Jay, his wife Beyonce and Prince all previously locked up many titles as Tidal exclusives, but now there are few: Beyonce brought her “Lemonade” album to other services up on the third anniversary of its release, and Prince’s estate returned his to Spotify and other platforms early in 2017, resulting in a lawsuit from Tidal that ultimately was settled.
Whatever his reasoning, the move seems likely to further cement his status as rap’s first billionaire, which Forbes declared him earlier this year. The publication estimated that his empire — which spans music, a streaming service, liquor, art real estate and stakes in other companies — “conservatively totals $1 billion” and noted that built his own brands: the Rocawear clothing line (sold for $204 million in 2007); D’Ussé, a cognac he co-owns with Bacardi; Tidal, the music-streaming service; and his multifaceted Roc Nation music and sports empire.
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