Chance The Rapper, Coloring Book, and the Questions I Have About His Apple Music Deal
I applaud Chance The Rapper for his amazing success thus far, but I have some questions about his Apple Music deal.
Chance has released all of his projects for free: two via DatPiff and his recent two via Apple: Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment's Surf on iTunes and Coloring Book on Apple Music. I believe that his music is the first to be released on iTunes (Surf) and Apple Music (Coloring Book) for free. At first, I thought it was awesome, but once Coloring Book came out, I wanted to know how the deal worked. I haven't found much information about his iTunes and Apple Music deals (which could be a good thing because of how exclusive it is), so I thought I'd share what I think is good about the deal and what questions I have about it, hopefully to get some clarification.
Let's discuss the good things about it first:
There's no label backing him.
Most indie artists don't have the opportunity to create major deals like this one -- it's usually major label artists with a whole lot of fans and money behind them. However, Chance got his deal from having an amazing team, an organic approach and growth in his fan base, and just being true to himself and to his messages. You can't knock that hustle.
He's getting paid for releasing free music.
Signing a deal with Apple Music should have guaranteed him some upfront (and residual) money, especially if he gave sole rights to Apple Music for two weeks before placing Coloring Book on other music streaming platforms...right? I'd hope so. No matter how much money was involved in the deal, I'm sure it's a step up from DatPiff (which I'm not sure paid Chance for Acid Rap, but still).
Chance is setting (part of) the blueprint for artists being successful in the music streaming era.
Most artists can't and aren't making deals like this for various reasons (connections, buzz, etc), but I think that just like everything that was once new, most people will start to utilize it. Even though Chance isn't the first person to break out in a big way via music streaming, I believe that he's the first person to release free music on Apple Music. We may see more artists do this in the future, maybe not. Either way, Chance's moves are making waves and I'm sure that people are going to continue to think of innovative ways to release their music in the music streaming era.
Now, let's get to the questions I have:
Can we label Apple Music as "the machine" behind Chance and Coloring Book?
Chance could have kept releasing music via DatPiff or released it solely on his site, but Surf and Coloring Book, released via Apple, catapulted his fame. So, is it safe to say that Apple is "the machine" behind Chance and is responsible major success? I'm sure that Chance could have successfully released it in other ways or used other platforms because he's done it before. But, with his eyes on the GRAMMYs and with the well circulated fan-made petition to The Recording Academy asking to consider free music in award considerations, streaming platforms like Apple Music are getting Chance's music and message to a higher platform. This is to say that Apple's deal with Chance – to me – looks like the support that a major label provides to an artist, without music control. (By the way, I'm not saying that he's not independent anymore like FactMag implied.)
Why can't everyone (legally) download Coloring Book?
I don't really like DatPiff, but at least with DatPiff, everyone has access to download and/or stream the music on any kind of mobile or computer device with access to the internet. You can do that with Chance's 10 Day and Acid Rap projects. However, with Coloring Book, you can only download it on Apple Music because of its exclusivity to the platform. You can't even download it via iTunes. I'm sure folks will mention the other sites where you "can" download it, but those aren't legal downloads, just like the DatPiff stream that came out the day Coloring Book was released. People can legally listen to it, but can't legally download it from various platforms, and that's kinda sad to me, especially coming from an artist that prides himself on giving his music away freely. Now, speaking of free...
Is Coloring Book actually free?
I know everyone that has access to music streaming doesn't pay for it, but for the folks that do, particularly on Apple Music, are they paying for Coloring Book since they're paying for the service? I know, I might be reaching with this, but seriously. This makes me wonder how Chance was paid for his Apple Music deal, especially with paying subscribers (and advertisements for free subscribers) added to it.
If you have any theories or answers, let me know in the comments section or over on Twitter at @amirahrashidah.