Chance the Rapper's album "Coloring Book" is set to debut at number 8 on the upcoming Billboard Top Album Chart. The feat is the first of its kind in that the album is available on streaming services only, with no physical copies or digital downloads available.
The chart placement is a milestone for the industry, which, for 2015, saw streaming revenue outperform that of digital download sales for the first time.
"Coloring Book" remains an Apple Music exclusive until May 27, when it will become available on other streamers. The fact that the album will debut in the top 10 based on streams from only one exclusive service makes it even more remarkable and underscores the huge changes occurring in the music industry.
Based on these shifts, a recent petition on Change.org was established in order to convince the Grammy Awards to change its policy of only awarding statuettes to music available for sale commercially, specifically citing Chance the Rapper as an example of why the policy should be changed. The petition, which has amassed over 32,000 signatures so far, reads, in part:
"Ridiculously talented artists who are releasing free mixtapes and projects are not getting the recognition they truly deserve because the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences insists that to be eligible for a prestigious Grammy Award that the music must be 'commercially released in general distribution in the United States for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year's voting deadline (final ballot).' This means that artists like Chance the Rapper, who are now getting national recognition and performing on national platforms are being punished for making their music available to everyone, rich or poor, by releasing their music for free."
The petition also argues that releasing free music helps fight piracy and illegal downloading, and that artists who choose to provide their music at no charge should not be punished for doing so. Chance the Rapper has vowed to continue offering his music only on streaming services in the future, with no plans for either digital downloads or physical release.
Note that, despite the categorization of Chance the Rapper's music as "free" in the petition, Apple Music is a paid subscription service, so until the record debuts on other streamers with free tiers such as Spotify, music fans who desire to access his music on demand still must pay a fee in order to do so.