Apple Music exclusives earn artists one-way trip to Spotify hell [Update: Spotify denies]

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Spotify punishes artists for giving Apple Music exclusives.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Scoring an exclusive album deal with Apple Music can be highly lucrative for artists looking for independence, but it might come with some serious payback from Spotify, which is reportedly punishing musicians that sign such deals.

Musicians have been dragged into the fight between Apple and Spotify, according to new reports saying Apple’s rival is threatening to bury artists in its search results. Meanwhile, Spotify has denied the accusations, which come from anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg and The New York Times.

“Artists who have given Apple exclusive access to new music have been told they won’t be able to get their tracks on featured playlists once the songs become available on Spotify,” reports Bloomberg.

Apple Music and Tidal have both served up a steady diet of exclusives from top artists as a way to attract new listeners over the past year. This week’s release of Frank Ocean’s highly anticipated album Blonde on Apple Music stoked the scorn of Spotify and Universal Music Group, one of the world’s biggest record labels.

Bloomberg’s report of Spotify’s alleged punishment of artists was echoed by The New York Times, which says top record label executives were told their artists’ music would not be prominently featured or included in Spotify playlists after their exclusive windows on other services.

A representative for Spotify told Cult of Mac “this is unequivocally false,” regarding allegations that the streaming service is burying artists in search results to retaliate for exclusives on competing services like Apple Music.

It’s not just big artists like Drake, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift that are taking the licks, either. Spotify is allegedly going after smaller bands that perform on Beats 1. One singer-songwriter even canceled plans to debut a new song on Zane Lowe’s Beats One radio show due to Spotify’s policy, according to Bloomberg.

Apple Music has quickly amassed 15 million subscribers in its first year in service. Spotify currently has 35 million, but it still isn’t profitable and can’t really afford exclusives of its own. No wonder the company is so mad.

Update: This story has been updated to include comment from Spotify.