TECH

Dr. Dre’s New Album Is Exclusive To Apple, And That’s A Problem

The streaming music industry may be changing in a big way.

A landmark album is dropping Friday -- but you'll need Apple Music or iTunes to listen to it.

USA Today reported earlier this week that Dr. Dre's first album in 15 years, "Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre," will be available to purchase only on the tech giant's new streaming service, though an Apple spokeswoman told The Huffington Post on Wednesday that the album will also be for sale via iTunes. The exclusivity on Apple platforms will last for the foreseeable future.

Exclusivity makes total sense: Dr. Dre is one of the founders of Beats, the music technology company that Apple acquired last year for $3 billion. Dre also has his own show on Apple Music's Beats 1 radio. But, logic aside, most music consumers should be wary of the move. It arguably represents a shift in the industry which could fracture audiences and force individuals to subscribe to multiple products if they want access to all of their favorite music.

Here's the problem: As it stands, Apple Music is one of many music streaming services offering very similar functionality to users. If you want to stream music, you can get Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music for $9.99 a month and basically rest assured that you're not missing out on a particular artist or album by choosing one over another. At least, that was historically the case.

Recently, Apple Music has started to land some pretty major exclusives. Taylor Swift brought her album "1989" to Apple Music after deciding that this particular corporate enterprise was more to her liking than alternate corporate enterprises. And now, Apple Music has locked down Dr. Dre.

It brings to mind a recent HuffPost interview with Stephen Witt, the author of How Music Got Free. Here's what he told us back in June:

This entire industry has copycat economics. For $9.99 a month, you get the same quality access to the same 30 million songs that they all have. The only differences between them are cosmetic for now. That could change if they start going for artist exclusives or offering different services...

[These services could] start bidding against each other for exclusives with musicians. That would be bad too because it makes each service worth less while spending more. You might subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, but you don't want to subscribe to both. And you might have to if the media starts to fragment into different channels.

In complete fairness to Apple, they're just playing a game that others have joined in on, too. It makes basic economic sense: If you crave a burger, you can go to McDonald's or you can go to Burger King. The products are similar, but they're not exactly the same. Ultimately, flavor or value help you decide which you actually want to spend your money on.

We've become used to living in a world where 10 bucks a month means whatever music we want, whenever we want. But we're starting to see that we may not want to get too comfortable there.