Earlier this week, The FADER reported that Endless, the first of Frank Ocean's two new albums helped the R&B singer fulfill his contractual obligations to Def Jam and parent company Universal Music Group while Blond, his second new album, has been released independently. This development reportedly led Universal Music Group to issue a company-wide ban on streaming exclusives (Endless is only available on Apple Music) and it may open Ocean up to legal backlash from his former label.
Now, the controversy around Endless continues with a report from Billboard that the 45-minute visual album will not debut on the Billboard 200 this week. (Meanwhile, Blond is expected to go straight to No. 1). According to the charting company and publication, since Endless can only be streamed in one block (i.e. one can't listen to individual tracks), the rules around what constitutes an album-equivalent stream are nebulous.
"At the present, the industry accepts that 1,500 streams of songs from an album equate to one album “unit," writes the Billboard staff. "But, for example, does one stream of a 45-minute visual album equate to one album unit? These are the types of questions that the industry, with Billboard and Nielsen Music, would need to answer in order to come up with a sensible way of including streamed visual albums, like Endless, onto the Billboard 200 chart."
The publication goes on to compare Endless with Beyoncé's Lemonade, which despite being a visual album was able to debut on the Billboard 200 because two days after its premiere on HBO it was made available for streaming and purchasing. That's not the case with Endless.
This news adds another wrinkle to an already complicated case, and may irk Universal Music Group—and its bottom line—even further.