Justin Timberlake’s new album Man of the Woods comes out on Friday, February 2. It’s unquestionably a major release — but unlike some of the other major releases of the past few years, there’s no sign that it will be a limited release.
All signs suggest that you’ll be able to listen to Man of the Woods more or less wherever you would like to: You should be able to stream it on Spotify, on Apple Music, or on Amazon Music, and you’ll absolutely be able to buy it as a digital download, as a CD, or as a vinyl record.
This is shaping up to be a very standard release — which, for a pop star as major as Justin Timberlake, is in some ways quite un-standard.
Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly common for major pop stars to window their releases. Stars who can afford to do so might keep their new releases off streaming for a few weeks, or license them to only one streaming service.
Jay-Z’s 4:44 was only available on his streaming service Tidal in the first week of its release, and only to subscribers who had been using Tidal for more than a week. Both Taylor Swift and Adele kept their most recent releases off streaming for weeks. Beyoncé’s Lemonade is licensed to stream exclusively on Tidal “in perpetuity.”
There are in fact so many ways for music’s biggest stars to tweak their release strategies that Billboard has a list of 20 ways that various major stars have subverted the traditional album release. (Timberlake actually features there, for his one-two punch release of The 20/20 Experience Part I in March 2013 and The 20/20 Experience Part II in September of the same year.)
In part, that’s because most streaming services offer artists such low royalties. (Tidal, which is artist-owned and bills itself as an artist-friendly service, is an exception here.) It’s much more lucrative to have an album that gets downloaded (legally) a lot than it is to have an album that gets streamed a lot, and for a star with an established fan base ready and willing to shell out cash if they have to, streaming can be more trouble than it’s worth.
But so far, Timberlake shows no signs of windowing or limiting the release of Man of the Woods at all. Which, for a pop star of his status, is an increasingly subversive move.