Did Frank Ocean Outsmart Def Jam/Universal To Release ‘Blonde’ Independently?


(AllHipHop News) Frank Ocean returned last week with two separate projects – the visual album Endless and the studio album Blonde.

Reports circulated that Endless was Ocean’s final LP on Def Jam Recordings which allowed the singer-songwriter to release Blonde independently the following day.

That move left Def Jam and its parent company Universal Music Group completely shut out of earnings from Blonde. According to Billboard, Ocean’s potential profit share rose from 14% to 70% of total revenues by dropping the project without major label assistance.

Def Jam reportedly spent $2 million on recording costs for Ocean’s sophomore LP. The publication asserts that the money was repaid to the label, and Ocean then handed in the essentially free project Endless as his final “album” on his Def Jam contract.

Ocean then released Blonde as an Apple Music/iTunes exclusive. The set is on pace to collect 225,000 to 250,000 equivalent album units in its first week of availability.

The New Orleans-born vocalist joined other artists such as Dr. Dre, Drake, DJ Khaled, Chance The Rapper, and YG to offer his latest collection only on Apple Music for a limited time.

Universal’s Chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge has now ordered the company’s sub-labels to no longer allow its acts to give exclusivity rights to Apple Music, Tidal, or any other streaming service.

As a result, performers signed to Def Jam, Cash Money, Interscope, Aftermath, Motown, G.O.O.D. Music, and many other imprints could be blocked from the potentially lucrative deals associated with streaming exclusive rights.

Has Frank Ocean outsmarted the traditional corporate music structure? Or did he just force the end of the music streaming wars?

The impact to Def Jam/Universal, Apple Music, and the entire music industry from the Blonde roll out will be evaluated for years to come.