Universal Music Group might have a case against Ocean for releasing visual album 'Endless' allegedly to free himself from his contract with Def Jam, before releasing 'Blonde' on his own label.
Following the release of two albums in the space of a few days, Frank Ocean has reportedly left himself open to the possibility of getting sued by his former record label Universal.
Immediately before he dropped his well-received second LP Blonde – his first in four years after 2012’s Channel Orange – the singer released a visual album entitled Endless. While both were made exclusively available by Apple Music, the first was released in conjunction with Def Jam, part of the Universal Music Group (UMG).
Frank Ocean's 'Blonde' was released just days after visual album 'Endless'
This was technically enough to discharge Ocean from his contract with UMG, and Blonde itself – regarded as the ‘proper’ follow-up by fans – was released via his own label Boys Don’t Cry. It is estimated that it will surpass Endless by at least 250,000 streams, a statistic that has left executives at UMG feeling short-changed and deprived of anticipated profit from one of their biggest artists, according to a report by Billboard.
It is for this reason that UMG has since banned any of its artists from concluding any streaming-exclusive deals in the future.
The article suggests Ocean has compensated Def Jam to the tune of $2 million in return for the production and financial assistance it put into the two albums plus his past development, because Blonde was released when he had already ended his contract.
Because of this, while there’s also no suggestion that UMG is actually considering launching legal action against Ocean, Billboard suggests that the label may have had little or no knowledge of Ocean’s plans to release Blonde in the way that he did, and could therefore mount action on that basis.