In 2016’s ever-changing music industry, each subtly distinctive release type is potentially cause for celebration. The latest release to be celebrated is Chance the Rapper’s mixtape, Coloring Book, which has earned the honor of being the first streaming-only release to crack the Billboard 200. It did so by garnering 57.3 million streams, which, according to whatever math is used by Billboard, is the equivalent of selling 38,000 album units.
If you’re like me, and the first thing you think upon hearing this news is, “Surely Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, which broke the internet earlier this year, had to exceed those numbers?” you’d be correct to question the veracity of this headline, or at least Billboard’s claim. However, the difference here is that Kanye’s TLOP was available for a digital download through Tidal, as well as streaming. (You’ll recall Chance’s revelatory verse on the opening track of TLOP, “Ultralight Beam.”) Now, yes, it is true that Kanye’s album release (and Tidal) was broken, and so many of the people who purchased the digital download did not receive it at first, but the classification is in the intention rather than the outcome, so the fact that Chance’s mixtape is an Apple exclusive means that it’s also special enough to warrant this and other headlines. (Also, it’s just a great mixtape, and deserves to be talked about.)
As the music industry continues to fragment and artists experiment with new and different forms of exclusive releases, expect more of these barely-distinguishable cases to pop up. It seems silly, but if it brings awareness to works that might otherwise fade quickly post-release, it’s not all bad.
Listen to “Blessings” from the mixtape below.