It’s been a big week for Frank Ocean fans. Immediately preceding the release of his long-anticipated sophomore LP, Blonde, he released a visual album titled Endless. Both albums were made available exclusively through Apple Music. However, the visual album was released through Def Jam/Universal Music Group (UMG), while the proper follow-up to Frank’s 2012 album Channel Orange was released on his own record label, Boys Don’t Cry.
Frank’s decision to release the albums in such a way has put him in hot water with UMG. Theoretically, Endless fulfills Frank’s contractual obligation to UMG, but Blonde, the real main attraction, is projected to surpass the visual album by nearly 250,000 streams. And that is a statistic that has left Universal executives feeling irritated and shortchanged. The label had anticipated Frank’s second album release with as much eagerness as the rest of us, but when Frank unexpectedly released Blonde through his own label, UMG lost a massive amount of profit potential from one of their most successful artists.
Potentially in reaction to Frank’s surprise independent release, UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge banned any future streaming-exclusive deals by their artists.
Billboard reports that Ocean may have repaid Def Jam for the nearly $2 million the record label put into the production of his two albums, essentially buying his own music back. When he released Blonde, he had already effectively severed ties with UMG.
Although Frank’s actions with last week’s releases may not have been strictly illicit, they are certainly unorthodox and controversial. Given the short turnaround between the two albums, it’s questionable whether UMG had any knowledge of Frank’s decision to release Blonde, and therefore may have grounds to sue. Although there has been no mention that UMG has any plans to take legal action, it is entirely possible that they will sue Frank over the ordeal.