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The rumors are true: Drake and Future will release a hotly anticipated mix tape exclusively through iTunes and Apple Music tonight.

It’s still a big deal even if you’re not a particularly big fan of Drake or Future.

The collaborative album, titled What a Time to Be Alive, will stream on Beats 1 Radio at 6 p.m. EST during Drake’s OVO Sound program. Then, two hours later, the album will be released exclusively on iTunes.

This is a masterful move by Apple that might make a lot of people consider switching to its service.

First off, this album is going to be an absolute monster. Drake is no stranger to sudden releases; his last surprise broke Spotify records with 17.3 million streams in 3 days, beating his own record set in 2013 when Nothing Was the Same saw 15.8 million in a week. Future is fresh off the July release of his chart-topping DS2.

That means Apple has managed to surprise fans with a long-rumored collaboration between two of popular music’s most searingly hot artists. An album nobody knew existed until yesterday. No leaks, no teasers.

https://instagram.com/p/70Y78JDQHO/

 

Fine, no big deal.

But to then stream the album via their own (admittedly solid) Beats 1 Radio? In Apple’s tightly controlled, piracy-averse format, it’s basically an old-school live listening session held simultaneously across the globe.

They’ve released an album that’s a surprise and hotly anticipated at the same time. That’s marketing savvy that should have the people at Spotify (to which I am a premium subscriber) scratching their chins.

(I would mention Tidal, but they’re busy changing the game with $25 physical CDs.)

Nobody knows for sure the size or terms of Drake’s deal with Apple — could be zero, could be $19 million — but this album release is a guaranteed blockbuster.

Complain all you want about exclusivity in music; I’m inclined to agree with you. But Apple has managed to spin an album release into something a bit bigger and shared. As a fan of music, it’s thrilling.

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