Have you heard that Kanye West is dropping an album called DONDA 2 on February 22? If not, Kanye's subliminal marketing blitz ain't working.

But, at least from where we're sitting, it sure seems like it is: he's been trending all over the internet since inexplicably, pointlessly initiating beef with Billie Eilish, Pete Davidson, Kid Cudi, and estranged wife Kim Kardashian.

Next controversial move? Announcing that DONDA 2 won't be dropping on any streaming service. No Spotify, no Apple Music, no Amazon.

"Donda 2 will only be available on my own platform, the Stem Player," West said in a rare, caps-lock-free Instagram caption, pointing fans towards the Stem Player's website.

If you don't remember, the Stem Player was revealed in 2021 as part of Ye's media blitz surrounding DONDA 1, though these new ones are part of the second generation, apparently.

Designed by Kano, the compact Stem Player lacks a visual interface but allows users to remix music on the go using a few button presses. It boasts surprisingly powerful speakers, too.

On Instagram, Ye claims "We currently have 67,000 available and are making 3,000 a day," so there ought to be plenty to go around.

Rumors abound that the album will also be free to stream on the Stem Player website, just like the first DONDA, but Ye didn't clarify (though he did reveal some kind of DONDA 2 tracklist).

Either way, fans are pretty pissed that they may have to cough up $200 just to hear their idol's latest album.

"The worst possible fucking ending we lost it’s over fuck this," said one particularly melodramatic individual.

On Instagram, comments include "For 200??? Imma just wait for the leaks" and "yeah im not buying that shit ill just wait for the files to drop online," which basically sums up the prevailing attitude.

Other comments: "Man we broke what makes you think we'll spend 200 on this just for an album," I'm pretty sure you, a whole billionaire, will still manage to eat if you put this on Spotify," and "sounds dope. looking forward to hearing a free leak online!"

Kanye, meanwhile is touting DONDA 2's Stem Player-exclusive launch as a revolution for the music industry.

"No one can pay me to be disrespected. We set our own price for our art," Ye said in another post.

"I turned down a hundred million dollar Apple deal. Tech companies made music practically free so if you don’t do merch sneakers and tours you don’t eat. JAY-Z made Tidal and fake media attacked him."

Tidal — which JAY-Z acquired but didn't create — is now majority-owned by Jack Dorsey's Square. It reportedly pays some of the highest royalties in the streaming biz, a measly $0.012-$0.0038 per single stream (exact figures are tough to calculate because they aren't revealed by the company).

But this isn't anything new from Kanye.

"A standard record deal is a trap to NEVER have you recoup, Kanye tweeted in 2020, part of a series of tweets pointing out executive evils in the record industry.

"This is a call for all [artists] to unify," he continued. "...every artist must be freed and treated fairly."

Ye's $200 Stem Player is supposed to be a step in this anti-establishmentarian direction but it's more indicative of the only factor that can really engender sweeping institutional upheaval: deep pockets.

Real change can be wrought from the bottom-up but doesn't come from creating yet another tech product that almost certainly will be sliced open upon arrival, its musical guts spread across the internet.

Real change comes from organizations like Justice at Spotify, who're unionizing working musicians to demand better payouts from the famously stingy streaming platform.

Real change comes from people fighting from the inside to reshape labor-exploiting practices that're inextricably couched in capitalism.

The music industry desperately needs a shake-up. It needs to be torn apart by the people who stand to benefit the most from its exploitative practices. For now, Kanye's new gizmo doesn't change anything for anyone except him.

Also, for the sake of legality: I don't condone the leaks. But, hey, free market rules.

Wherever there's a void left by someone, say, refusing to upload their album on streaming platforms for fans to stream for free, you can expect that someone will be there to pick up the slack.

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