Streaming services
Ever wonder where music is disappearing to? (Image via The Prospector)
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Streaming services

In the age of streaming, it isn’t unusual for projects from your favorite artists to disappear. Here’s why.

One day you’re listening to one of your favorite albums via Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal, then the next day it has completely vanished from both your library and the streaming services catalog altogether. No, you aren’t being hacked and you (probably) aren’t suffering from memory loss.

It’s just another day in the land of streaming and your music of choice is the latest casualty. While the internet has immensely increased access to all the music people love, allowing them to find and listen to what they want when they want, streaming — like anything else — still has its difficulties.

Albums and singles vanish from streaming catalogs more frequently than one might expect. A quick Google search will relay that this is quite the common problem for listeners across virtually all streaming platforms, regardless of choice.

On a Spotify community post from 2014, one forum user expressed their discontent and frustration with the phenomenon, saying, “I searched a title from the album and it came up as saved from my playlist, clicked on it and it said unavailable.”

The user continued, “This has happened twice now. Is this going to happen to the albums I like and listen to a lot? I pay for premium! Would really like to know why this is happening!”

While one user explains that there isn’t much that can be done to prepare for a song or album being taken down, the way one might be able to binge-watch before a show expires on Netflix, another offers an unfortunately short winded reply.

“Hey the artist may have taken the music off the platform for unknown reasons,” they write. Yes, it is correct that the artist probably took it down but the reasons aren’t as foggy as they seem on the surface.

There are several reasons why an album might be removed from streaming services either temporarily or permanently. Within the last year, highly coveted albums including SZA’s freshman effort “Z,”  Goldlink’s “The God Complex” and multiple others, have all vanished from Spotify and Apple Music for long periods of time.

Jay-Z, for example, removed his whole discography from both platforms as he kicked off his own streaming venture in Tidal. While a sparse selection of singles and collaborations from the Brooklyn rapper are still available on other platforms, Jay-Z’s best interest was making the “big move” to a platform where he could put himself in the position to control revenue streams of his own, and advocate for the fair compensation of other artists as well.

Other times, your favorite tracks might be missing due to discrepancies with contracts and distribution deals. The landscape of the music business has rapidly transformed over the last decade, with tons of rising artists making the decision to operate independently without the help of a label.

Perhaps this is a result of the well-known horror stories of funky contracts and executives capitalizing on artists who simply don’t know any better. But, it happens, often resulting in entire discographies of those artists being MIA on the services people use. Exhibit A: ’90s R&B star Aaliyah, who captured the hearts of many with her out-of-this-world style, angelic voice and captivating dance moves.

Her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number,” is widely available for streaming, but her more popular second and third studio efforts, “One in A Million” and “Aaliyah,” were gridlocked by Blackground Records, which is now defunct and notorious for their faulty distribution deals.

The label also still harbors projects from other prominent ’90s R&B artists like Timbaland, Tank and Toni Braxton as well, which can’t be found on streaming services either.

In 2016, when Grammy award-winning rock band Radiohead made the switch from Warner Music Group to Beggars Group’s XL Recordings, their discography was streamlined, causing the removal of several deluxe editions and B-sides from streaming services.

Personal and social issues for artists can even result in removals in certain situations too. Last year, after sexual assault allegations arose against queer punk-pop duo, PWR BTTM, the band was dropped from its label who vowed to end all further distribution of the group’s music and refund any previous sales of the music.

Without the backing of a label and the subsequent cancellation of their tour, the band’s music slowly began to disappear from streaming services. One of the group’s albums that was removed was released only days before it was taken down.

Since then, the group contested the allegations and worked alongside a lawyer to reclaim the rights to all of their music from the label’s control. About a month later, their discography was back on Spotify, although not in its entirety.

And sometimes, perhaps in the best cases, album and song removals are all about getting the music just right. In 2016, after the release of Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo,” the album disappeared from Tidal.

Instead of pushing the release date back, Yeezy decided that the most authentic way to approach slight changes in the album’s pitching, drum beats and cadences, was to edit it in real time after its release and then re-upload it, essentially allowing fans to watch the album grow and change itself over an extended release.

So, the dichotomy of the streaming world is an interesting one, to say the least, and it often isn’t as black and white as users might expect. Between creative changes, business decisions or social aspects, the removal of albums temporarily from the public eye is sometimes a necessary evil in the never-ending creative process.

However, patience is always a virtue as it usually doesn’t take too long for songs or albums to reappear in all of their glory after a short wait. All listeners, however, should hope that their favorite albums never see the fate of removal from streaming services.

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