Apple Music Removes Ye’s “Vultures 1” Amid Distributor Dispute

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Ye, the rapper, producer and provocateur formerly known as Kanye West, has what will likely be the No. 1 album on next week’s Billboard chart, with “Vultures 1.” But on Thursday, the LP disappeared from Apple Music, one of the world’s top streaming platforms.

The reason was unclear, and Apple gave no explanation. But the removal came a few hours after an independent distribution outlet complained that its system had been used to release the music in violation of its service terms.

It also remained unclear whether — and how soon — Ye’s album might return to Apple, perhaps through another distributor.

“Vultures 1,” a joint release with the R&B singer Ty Dolla Sign, was set to be Ye’s comeback moment after a series of antisemitic remarks in 2022 made him a pariah in music and fashion — without a record label or booking agent, and with his lucrative partnership with Adidas canceled. In December, he apologized for those remarks in a social media post written in Hebrew.

After listening events last week at arenas in Chicago and on Long Island — where young fans flocked to hear his new music, and some shrugged off his past controversies — Ye released the 16-track “Vultures 1” last Friday.

It quickly became a hit at streaming platforms, despite a series of hiccups, including its brief disappearance online shortly after release, and accusations from Ozzy Osbourne and the estate of Donna Summer that songs on the album sampled those artists’ work without permission.

But on Thursday — with high streaming numbers all but guaranteeing that “Vultures 1” would become his 11th chart-topping LP — the album was removed from Apple Music. A representative for Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Late in the afternoon, the album was still available on Spotify, Amazon Music and other platforms.

Earlier on Thursday, Fuga, a distribution platform that works with independent record labels to place their music on streaming services, revealed a conflict behind the scenes of the release of “Vultures 1.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the company said that last year, Fuga had passed on an opportunity to release “Vultures 1,” “exercising our judgment in the ordinary course of business,” but that on Feb. 9, a client delivered the album to online services “through the platform’s automated processes, violating our service agreement.” Fuga said it sent takedown notices to streaming platforms.

Puzzlingly, once the album was removed from Apple, the Fuga spokeswoman said that the takedown was “unrelated to our distribution of the album,” and referred questions back to Apple.

With the explosion of digital music in the streaming era, millions of songs are released each year through independent distribution platforms like Fuga that exist outside the major-label system.

For a modest fee, such companies often give indie acts their chance to reach audiences around the world, though the enormous volume of content sometimes leads to problems like hoaxes and unauthorized releases, as was the case in 2018 when a purportedly new Beyoncé album landed on streaming services; it turned out to be a collection of old demos and other recordings released without authorization.

A representative for Ye did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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