There are tens of millions of songs on every streaming service, from Spotify to Apple Music, Qobuz to Lüm. Still, there are some artists, albums and songs that are impossible to find on streaming services. To listen to these, you’ll have to purchase the digital or physical copies of the album. Alternatively, they may be available as entire albums on YouTube, but know that audio quality will have been compromised – we recommend buying the album for this reason.
Here are 8 awesome albums that aren’t on streaming services.
De La Soul’s iconic debut album and a majority of their other discography is absent from streaming services. You can find their recent 2016 album, and the Anonymous Nobody, among various other works, but you’ll have to pay to listen to tracks such as Me, Myself and I and The Magic Number. It’s not through choice that De La Soul’s albums aren’t streamable, though. Speaking to the BBC, the group said that almost 70 of the samples on the album aren’t cleared for streaming. "Our contracts on those early albums said specifically 'vinyl and cassette,'" explained band member Posdnuos. "The wording wasn't vague enough to lend itself to [new] music technology.”
As with De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, Frank Ocean’s debut mixtape can’t be found on streaming services due to samples. You’ll be able to find it on SoundCloud, but with samples from Radiohead, Coldplay, The Eagles and more all uncleared, it will remain offline for the foreseeable future. In fact, Don Henley of The Eagles threatened to sue Frank Ocean for using Hotel California in the track American Wedding. The situation got rather heated, with Henley telling The Guardian: “I thought he was a talentless little prick. And I still do”. Ocean responded in a Tumblr post with: “Ain’t this guy rich as fuck? Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.”
Tycho’s The Science of Patterns was the electronic artist’s debut mixtape – speaking of patterns, what’s with the debuts being withheld from streaming services? This one appears to be down to Tycho’s choice, given that it was self-released and there are very few samples. That said, there have been several times that he’s mentioned its re-release. He recently took to Twitch to inform followers that he’s working on a re-release right now and “figuring out the best way to do it”. You can hear it on YouTube to get a taste of what’s to come.
Until recently, Viktor Vaughn (MF DOOM’s side project)’s second album, Venomous Villain, was buried on Spotify under the artist name VV:2. After a recent clearout of music on the platform, it’s no longer available. The album isn’t necessarily a DOOM classic, but it remains the final album of his Viktor Vaughn alias and features beats from Diplo and System D-128. You won’t find this one in high-quality anywhere online, but you can pick up the CD from Discogs – for around $400.
Arguably one of the first lo-fi instrumental mixtapes is J Dilla’s Vintage Vol.2. This is, by far, one of the producer’s most mellow works, and it’s extremely rare. The mixtape was seemingly released on vinyl and as a tape, but you’ll have a hard time buying it second hand. Thankfully, it can be purchased and listened to on Bandcamp and listened to in its entirety on YouTube.
Aaliyah’s debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, can be streamed easily on streaming services, but the legendary late rapper’s follow-up is yet to be added. One In A Million, perhaps Aaliyah’s most celebrated album, and her self-titled album are nowhere to be seen, due to her uncle’s ownership of the rights. There were reports in 2020 that Aaliyah’s full digital discography would be available soon, but we’re yet to see those claims come to fruition.
French Kiwi Juice’s seminal EP has seemingly disappeared from digital libraries. The record, which the multi-instrumentalist made in 2013, bomasted tracks that he would become renowned for. This included Instant Need and So Much To Me, the former of which has made it onto a TheSoundYouNeed compilation, thankfully. You can still listen to the tracks on YouTube or purchase a second hand vinyl, but it seems that it’s not destined to return to streaming services.
Company Flow is an underground hip-hop group, comprising El-P, Bigg Jus and Mr.Len. You may know El-P if you’re familiar with Run The Jewels – he teamed up with Killer Mike to form the hard-hitting rap duo. Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus is a piece of 90s hip-hop history. It’s not clear why the album isn’t streamable – it could be a sampling issue or something to do with Rawkus Records, the label it was released on. You can listen to it in full on YouTube, still.
There are too many EPs and records to list on here that have been released by independent labels, such as house label Razor n Tape and Outplay. There are countless other labels that only press to vinyl, and leave digital downloads for dust. You’ll find this mostly in the dance scenes, but some artists, such as Skee Mask have ditched streaming altogether to retain all of their royalties and cultivate a closer fanbase.
There are sure to be plenty more albums not available on streaming services? What did we miss?
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