Aaliyah’s Music Might Finally Be Coming To Streaming Platforms
Streaming services sometimes seem to contain every song you could ever want to hear, but there are some glaring omissions in the catalog of your DSP of choice. One prominent example is the music of the late, great R&B superstar Aaliyah Houghton. Take it from someone who has had “Are You That Somebody?” in his head more or less nonstop for the past 22 years: Thanks to a longstanding legal conflict, none of Aaliyah’s catalog is legally available on streaming platforms except her 1994 debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.
As Complex laid out in a detailed feature four years ago, Aaliyah’s uncle and former manager, Barry Hankerson, gained full control of her masters upon moving his Blackground label from Jive to Atlantic in 1996. This arrangement continued until her death at age 22, 19 years ago today. In 2012, Hankerson sold a stake in Blackground’s publishing rights to Reservoir Media, including Aaliyah’s catalog. Reservoir’s CEO Golnar Khosrowshahi has since licensed samples of Aaliyah’s music and teased a posthumous album overseen by superfans Drake and Noah “40” Shebib, which was ultimately scrapped in 2014. But for reasons known only to Hankerson, who still owns Aaliyah’s master recordings from 1996 and beyond, the bulk of her music has remained unavailable to stream.
That may be about to change. In a message on Aaliyah’s social accounts on today’s anniversary of her passing, her estate hinted that her music would be on streaming platforms soon. “To our loyal fans,” the message begins. “We are excited to announce that communication has commenced between the estate and various record labels about the status of Aaliyah’s music catalogue, as well as its availability on streaming platforms in the near future. Thank you for your continued love and support. More updates to come!”
This progress seems to validate what Aaliyah herself once sang: If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.