Former Apple Music employee bashes Spotify, Tidal and cheap fans

Sean Glass, who was involved in Apple's exclusive launches by big stars like Frank Ocean, says Tidal gives "zero value" and Spotify leaves indie labels "powerless".

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Indie label boss and former Apple Music employee Sean Glass has defended Apple's commitment to exclusives from big artists, bashing rivals Spotify and Tidal.

Exclusive new albums and related content are a major weapon in the current battle between music streaming services. This week Apple dropped a huge exclusive with new music from Frank Ocean. Tidal's main selling point is music that can't be streamed elsewhere from Jay-Z, Beyoncé and other artists who co-own the service.

In a blog post published on Tuesday, Glass suggests that the only listeners who don't like exclusives are those who aren't prepared to fork out any money for music. But that's unfair to music fans who miss out on their favourite artists just because they've committed to paying for a different service.

Glass is the cofounder of Win Music, and worked for Apple Music until recently. He says he has "no horse in this race. But I fully support Apple as the leader and only relevant party." Glass accuses Spotify of putting no effort into original music content. It's true that Spotify hasn't backed new music on the same scale, apart from recorded sessions with artists and plans for its first original content, a documentary about Metallica.

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He also repeats claims that Spotify is currently looking to pay artists less. In fact, Spotify is reported to be negotiating to pay less to record labels -- how much each artist gets is up to the contract between the artist and their label, not Spotify.

Tidal doesn't escape criticism: Glass describes the service as "a reductive strategy...providing zero added value."

Glass point out that Apple exclusives aren't just albums. "There were TONS of music videos that I can't go into detail about, but just would not have existed without Apple's involvement," he writes. "These aren't situations where Apple was just paying for things. There's intimate creative involvement from the Apple side, down to actually directing videos."

Glass also argues that one of the biggest problems in music streaming is that major labels "own the playlists." Playlists on streaming services, like the charts in the past, are a vital way of getting new music to the ears of listeners. But Glass accuses Spotify of serving "major label dominated playlists" that act as "gatekeepers" to listeners' own libraries, leaving independent labels "powerless".

Spotify declined to comment.