Platform-exclusive content is one of the best ways to juice hardware sales, and Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, announced via Instagram that his next album, Donda 2, “will only be available on my own platform, the Stem Player. Not on Apple Amazon Spotify or YouTube.”
While Ye’s reasoning is separate from other artists who’ve recently spoken out about Spotify’s Joe Rogan situation and the stark difference between his $200 million deal vs. how much it pays them, the conclusion is the same. As he wrote in another post, “Today artists get just 12% of the money the industry makes. It’s time to free music from this oppressive system. It’s time to take control and build our own. Go to stemplayer.com now to order.”
The album is scheduled to launch on Tuesday, February 22nd.
The $200 Stem Player launched last year in a partnership with Kano Computing, shipping with the first Donda album so that you could manipulate any song using the touch-sensitive light sliders embedded in its beige shell. “We currently have 67,000 available and are making 3,000 a day,” said Ye in another post.
It worked well in our testing, allowing owners to easily manipulate different parts of a song while listening, whether for one of the included tracks or any others loaded via its web-based interface. However, adding loops and effects can get more complicated. It has 8GB of storage, connections via USB-C, Bluetooth, or 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 97db speaker.
The details of the upcoming album’s exclusivity are murky — will it cost anything for Stem Player owners to download? — but this isn’t Ye’s first exploration into limited release music. In February 2016, he released The Life of Pablo exclusively via Tidal, tweeting that it “will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale.” On April 1st of that year, The Life of Pablo launched for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play — Ye eventually settled a lawsuit from a fan who said they signed up for Tidal based on its exclusivity.
In 2017, TMZ reported Kanye West was canceling his contract with Tidal, and the outlet said it was in dispute over millions of dollars he believed the company owed him. It also cited sources saying he would be “done with exclusives.”
Having control over the hardware platform the music is tied to may make this a different environment for the release. The artist has continued to post on Instagram since last night’s announcement — older posts about Pete Davidson, Billie Eilish, and Kid Cudi have disappeared — sharing what appears to be a tracklist for Donda 2 and reiterating a recent claim that Apple offered to pay $100 million for the first Donda album.
According to Ye, “Tech companies made music practically free so if you don’t do merch sneakers and tours you don’t eat. Jay Z made Tidal and fake media attacked him. Well in the words of my big brother. Come and get me. I’m willing to die standing cause I ain’t living on my knees no more. God please cover me. I run this company 100% I don’t have to ask for permission. This is our 2nd generation stemplayer We have more things we working on. I feel like how I felt in the first episode of the documentary.” The documentary he mentions is Jeen-yuhs, which recently debuted on Netflix.