Kanye’s Post-Release Updates to Life of Pablo

Kanye West Lollapalooza Chile 2011 2
By rodrigoferrari (Kanye West 05) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Kanye West released his most recent album, The Life of Pablo, on February 14, but he still has not finished it. West has been revising lyrics, changing the song order, and adding and removing tracks. He plans to continue making changes indefinitely.

This is possible because West’s music was released through a streaming service, rather than as a finished CD. The Life of Pablo is available exclusively from Tidal. Right after he released the single “No More Parties in L.A.” in January, West uploaded a new version. He updated one track, “Wolves,” and added a new track on March 15. West has said that the album will never be sold anywhere except Tidal. Since he does not plan to release a definitive CD version, the album may never be finished.

West’s practice of reworking songs and releasing updated versions is similar to the way developers patch their software. Software as a service (SaaS) is a model in which software is sold on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. The Life of Pablo is called a minimum viable product. That is a product that is released and can be continuously improved in response to customer feedback.

This principle is used in cloud computing and with many versions of software. The model is used for numerous business applications, games, content management, and antivirus products. The Life of Pablo is the first SaaS album.

By making changes to his album after it was released, West is turning an album from a product into a service. This allows subscribers to follow his creative process.

Streaming and continuously updating music can be beneficial to artists. It can frustrate music pirates because there may never be a definitive completed version of an album for them to sell. It can enable artists to respond to feedback from fans and make adjustments and improvements. Having music that changes often could also help streaming services become more viable because they could offer something that a CD or download cannot.

It is unclear how changing songs after an album is released might affect performances when artists go on tour. An audience in one location might hear the most recent version of a song one night, and a different audience could hear a different version the next night if the artist decides to make changes. Some artists have traditionally played live versions of songs that differ from studio versions. That practice could become more common now that artists can change their music at any time.

Kanye West will be performing at the Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island in New York from June 3 to 5. buyTickets.com sells tickets to concerts, sporting events, and theater performances.