In what is becoming a somewhat commonplace event, Kanye West has made another major announcement about future business plans via a series of tweets. This time, the artist has announced that he’s swearing off releasing his music on CDs.
The tweets seemed to come in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, with the first tweet saying that West was “thinking about not making CDs ever again,” before building up to where the artist called the Yeezus album packaging “an open casket for CDs.”
While this is a risky move, it’s a safer bet for someone with an audience the size of West’s than it would be for many other artists. It also doesn’t come as a total surprise, given the digital-exclusive nature of his previous album, The Life Of Pablo.
uuuuuuum, so there it is… No more CDs from me
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) March 7, 2016
What West didn’t specify in the tweets was exactly which streaming services his music would be available through. After initially offering The Life Of Pablo as a direct download to fans, West declared the release as Tidal only, saying it would never be available in any other form, whether via CD or another streaming service.
Whether or not that move was a smart one is debatable. After learning that The Life Of Pablo would only be available via Tidal, fans flocked to The Pirate Bay in droves, and the album was downloaded more than 500,000 times on the first day it was available. West followed up by threatening legal action against The Pirate Bay, which led to a sticky situation when a screenshot posted to Twitter appeared to show West using the popular streaming site himself to download music production software.
Going digital-only will almost certainly result in a drop in sales — it was only last year that digital music sales surpassed CD sales for the first time — but West can afford a drop in sales given his massive audience. Even solely distributing music via streaming is more realistic than it once was, with Warner Music reporting that its streaming sales passed downloads in May of last year. Going Tidal-only, however, puts a large portion of West’s future in the hands of a service whose own future is uncertain.
Whether or not that is a leap Kanye will stick with remains to be seen, but by now, he’s already done stranger things.