Following a heavy week of releases, Frank Ocean may end up in hot water.
Endless – his visual album – was released as an exclusive Apple Music video stream via Def Jam and Universal Music Group. The following day, Ocean dropped Blond(e) on his own Boys Don’t Cry imprint. This full-album release rolled out entirely without the involvement of Universal or Def Jam.
It’s since been noted by Billboard that Endless may have been used to meet the outstanding demands of his contract with Def Jam / UMG leaving him free to release Blond(e) independently. In doing so, Ocean niftily increased his profit share of total revenues from 14% to 70% within 24 hours. The major label are left with a free-to-stream movie with no real single options while the album – which is forecasted to hit number one this week – belongs solely to Frank.
It’s since emerged that UMG CEO Lucian Grainge has banned all artists from all future streaming exclusive deals. It’s not confirmed that this move is a response to Ocean’s strategy.
In July, Billboard reported that Def Jam had spent $2 million on the follow-up to Channel Orange. This, paired with contractual conditions about artists releasing competing records within certain timeframes, has led many to speculate that Def Jam and UMG may have grounds to sue Frank Ocean.
If the major do take Ocean to court, it will be the first case of its kind.