Last night, at midnight, JAY-Z released his intense and personal new album 4:44. As previously reported, the album is a Tidal exclusive. But it’s not just a Tidal exclusive. Tidal has released the album in conjunction with Sprint, and if you weren’t a Tidal subscriber before last night, you’ll have to switch your cell phone service provider if you want to hear it legally. That’s right: You can’t just subscribe to Tidal now to stream the album. You’ll have to be a Sprint customer.
The Verge reports that 4:44 won’t be available to people who subscribed to Tidal after midnight eastern last night. Instead, only Sprint customers will be able to stream it. Earlier this year, Sprint paid $200 million to buy 33% of Tidal, setting aside $75 million annually for artist initiatives and exclusives. And so this must be that Sprint money at work.
Still, given how unguarded and personal the album is — how it strips away layer after layer of JAY’s persona — you can almost imagine an artistic justification for this otherwise-baffling decision. Maybe JAY just didn’t want to share all these deep real-life details with people who weren’t already supporting him. Or maybe it’s just that $200 million is a whole fucking lot of money.
UPDATE: The album’s Sprint/Tidal exclusivity could be short-lived. According to Variety, sources close to Jay are claiming that 4:44 will be up on Apple Music 7/7, after only a week of Tidal exclusivity. If that’s true — if other streaming-service customers will get to hear the album in just a week — then this seems to be a whole lot of fuss over nothing much.