Spotify started streaming Frank Ocean's blockbuster record "Blonde" Friday, after its main rival Apple held onto it as an exclusive for nearly three weeks.
Apple Music has been the only on-demand streaming service with "Blonde" since it was released August 20. The exclusive was a dunk for Apple; the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and was the third best-selling record debut so far this year.
The other two? Drake's "Views," which was an Apple Music exclusive for its first week, and Beyoncé's "Lemonade," which has been streaming exclusively on Tidal, the music service that she and husband Jay Z partly own.
One-off exclusives like "Blonde" have become the central competitive maneuver for Apple Music and Tidal as they fight to win your business over Spotify, by far the biggest subscription music service worldwide by members. Spotify is the only service of it's kind allowed to stream free, on-demand tunes with advertising, a proposition that works effectively as stepping stone to reeling in new paid members. So competitors like Apple Music and Tidal lean on exclusives.
Spotify doesn't play the exclusive-release game. Its executive in charge of services for creators has called exclusives "bad for artists, bad for consumers and bad for the whole industry" in an interview with Billboard. That strategy, combined with some megastars' resistance to streaming generally, means Spotify customers have missed out on some of the buzziest albums of the last year.
But so far, missing out on big albums when they're buzziest doesn't seem to be hurting Spotify's growth. The Sweden-based company added 9 million members to reach more than 39 million in the five months through late August. By comparison, Apple Music gained 4 million subscribers to reach 17 million since late April -- a period that has included its exclusives for "Views" and "Blonde."