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Tweeted by The Don on Kanye's Twitter page.

PABLO’S OTHER PAINTERS: WASHED OUT BY TIDAL

Kanye West’s announced decision to offer his The Life of Pablo album only via streaming on Tidal had all kinds of ramifications, not least for the many writer/producers who participated in its creation, including Rick Rubin, Terius Nash (The-Dream), Chancelor Bennett (Chance the Rapper) and Swizz Beatz.

The name producers on the project undoubtedly got a substantial fee for their work (and Def Jam covered recording costs). But what about the up-and-comers, particularly the ones who are writers only, and who white-knuckled it through the selection process? They made the cut after multiple rounds of writing and recording, essentially on spec, and now face the prospect of no back end.

Those creators entered into the project with the expectation that their work would be widely available, and even under those circumstances their prospects for compensation were affected by the multi-writer splits (several tracks have 12 or more credited composers) and publishing’s comparatively small piece of the streaming pie.

With the album now only available through Tidal, which has around 1.75% marketshare among streaming services, and Kanye’s site, that already modest payday is reduced to a virtual zero. Kanye had previously announced plans to offer the album for download via his site on 3/25, with physical thought to be part of that date’s rollout. Yeezy’s recent tweets (“no more CDs for me”) cast doubt on the latter, but even if it’s for sale in all forms, Pablo will likely have extremely limited traction if only sold via the artist’s URL. Or will he broker some kind of arrangement with a major retailer (this too seems unlikely, given the lead time required)? And assuming something arrives on that date, will it be the same album, or something different? Will writers who made it onto one but not the other be in limbo? 

Some of the other writer/producers involved in multiple Pablo cuts are Metro Boomin, Boi 1nda, Mike Dean, Derik Watkins, Southside, Leland T. Wayne, Samuel Griesemer and T.L. Barrett.

Did Kanye find some other way to compensate these co-creators, given the commercial limitations he’s imposed on the release? Meanwhile, from a contractual standpoint, does the release of Pablo even meet “minimum delivery commitments,” which would mean making it available through “normal retail channels”?

Some observers have argued that it’s a roll of the dice to work on a Kanye project, and that a credit on one of his albums is still good for a writer’s resume. But some reps are wondering aloud if there’s any upside for an aspiring creator to put in the considerable sweat equity required.

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