10 Albums that aren’t on Apple music

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Just a few weeks ago, Apple unveiled its new streaming service, Apple Music. And despite a few glitches here and there, and some user experience things that will likely get sorted out on later revisions, it’s off to a pretty strong start. The service features special, artist-curated radio shows through Beats1, including shows hosted by St. Vincent (where she makes mixtapes for fans!) and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme. And Trent Reznor is playing a bit role as well, having issued a bunch of his own unreleased material to be heard exclusively through Apple Music. Still, it had a shaky start when there was talk that no artist would receive royalties during the first three months (where users would be able access the service for free), and Taylor Swift took Apple to task for unfair treatment of artists. That all got sorted out—everyone’s getting paid, and Swift’s music is now available to stream, as is Thom Yorke/Radiohead’s. This is sort of a coup for Apple, since neither artist’s music was available on other services like Spotify, and with the recent announcement that AC/DC has now put its catalog up to stream pretty much everywhere, the list of artists opting out of the streaming game is diminishing. But Apple Music, just like Spotify, still has a few gaps in its library. Licensing music is still a contentious game, and plenty of artists whose music you can buy on iTunes are still keeping a tight lid on streaming rights. So we decided to pick 10 of our favorite albums that you can’t stream on Apple (or Spotify or other major services), though we left out a lot of others that you can’t find, including select albums by Peter Gabriel, El-P, Company Flow, mixtapes by Lil B and Chance the Rapper, Swans’ early ’90s output, and others that we won’t go into right now. Just make sure you’ve got your record player queued up for the right moments, because here are 10 great albums not on Apple music.

7 revolverThe BeatlesRevolver
(1966; Apple)

The punworthy Apple vs. Apple saga has been an ongoing concern since the earliest days of iTunes, which for a long time did not, in fact, sell the music of The Beatles. It was only around 2009 that the licensing agreement actually got worked out, and that was to actually sell the music. (Shortly thereafter, The Beatles dominated the iTunes charts, therefore proving that Apple Corps’ bargaining chip was still a pretty valuable one.) But since then, The Beatles’ catalog has been notably absent from streaming (outside of select tracks on YouTube). It hasn’t been on Spotify since it launched, and it’s not on Apple Music now. On some level, it just feels weird to stream an album like Revolver, though; it’s not as if taking LSD is actually necessary to enjoy it, but there’s a sensory, almost tactile feel to the record, so if it’s buzzing through your earbuds, maybe you’re not really getting the full life-after-death scope of the hallucinatory “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Then again, maybe that’s a good thing. At least make sure to get some good headphones when you float downstream, even if it’s just a CD-R you’re tripping on. – JT

King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson KingKing CrimsonIn the Court of the Crimson King
(1969; Atlantic)

British prog-rock giants King Crimson have been staunchly against allowing their music to be available on streaming services, and took on the now-defunct service Grooveshark back in 2011. After that, they prevented their music from being on Spotify. And so it is with Apple Music, where In the Court of the Crimson King isn’t there at your fingertips, unless you already have it on your computer, in which case you’re a step ahead of the game. King Crimson, like several of the artists on this list, make music that makes more sense in the context of the album it’s presented, rather than divided up, song by song. So that’s certainly one argument, though it has more to do with actual licensing and legal rights in this case. Still, In the Court of the Crimson King is an album that warrants a thorough listen from front to back, if not to fully grasp the storyline, then to hear one of the greatest art rock records unfold in all its majesty. – JT

albums not on Spotify PyromaniaDef LeppardPyromania
(1983; Mercury)

Why can’t you find the album that set the bar for the pop-metal gonad-rock revolt of the 1980s on your fave digital outpost? Mexican standoff, pretty much. Def Leppard and a Universal rep (“a fan, a smart businessman and a fair guy,” singer Joe Elliott told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012) negotiated a digital revenue deal that pleased all sides, but someone above that rep at the label nixed the agreement for reasons unclear. In completely understandable protest, Def Leppard not only refused any and all licensing of their classic ‘80s output, they actually went as far as to re-record some of it, mainly just to piss off the suits. So until that chicken contest runs its course and everybody hugs it out, the original Pyromania is convalescing peacefully within the confines of your uncle’s CD box.

You shouldn’t blame Pyromania for all the ozone layer depletion it inspired: There’s a reason it’s a blueprint. The record lives on the crease between ‘70s hard rock and its synthed-up ‘80s cousin, and it negotiated the divide between grit and cleanliness ably. That’s because the compositions are revealingly strong. “Stagefright,” “Foolin’” and “Die Hard the Hunter” switch from crunch to melody as the songs require, with Steve Clark’s and Phil Collen’s guitars working in disciplined but unpredictable lines. The spark flickers out about three-quarters of the way through with songs more satisfied with capable execution, but not before the crisp turns from “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” through “Rock of Ages” have delivered their gratifications. And after all these wizening, ironic years, “Photograph” is still perfect.

The lyrics? Who cares? — PP

Prince - Purple RainPrincePurple Rain
(1984; Warner Bros.)

Almost immediately after the launch of Apple Music Prince pulled all of his music from it, as well as from Spotify and Rdio (but not the $19.99 a month Tidal). This should surprise absolutely no one. Prince’s reputation is built as much on his carefully controlled image, and non-stop battle to maintain that control, as it is on his songwriting and ability to play just about any instrument that you’d put in front of him. The funny thing is that at least a handful of his records were on Spotify as of just a month ago (though certainly not all of them), so this is a semi-recent development, though it’s not like you can do a workaround by going to YouTube and looking up his music—he slayed that beast long ago. CD, vinyl, cassette or MP3 it is! And, like many of the other albums on this list, if you don’t already have at least one copy  (I’ve got two, guilty as charged), then it’s worth reassessing your priorities. Not that I’m necessarily defending His Purple Litigiousness in that regard, but great music is great music, and if the opening drums of “Let’s Go Crazy,” the synths of “I Would Die 4 U” or the solo that opens “When Doves Cry” don’t qualify as great music, then let’s just pack it in right now. Music is over. – JT

Kate Bush Hounds of LoveKate BushHounds of Love
(1985; EMI)

The reasons why Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love is conspicuously missing from every streaming service (while the rest of her catalog is readily available) have never been explained, though it’s certainly been a source of frustration for a lot of listeners. After all, the rest of them are there! Bush and her lawyers must have their reasons, but it is a shame that this masterpiece of conceptual art pop and booming ’80s prog-pop production is—much like Prince’s masterpiece(s)—not able to be experienced in a streaming marathon. No, it’s best made an event all its own, with the marching drums of opener “Running Up That Hill” treated as fanfare for a two-part drama that unfolds in the powerful title track, the soaring “Cloudbusting,” or the multi-part song cycle about a woman lost at sea that comprises the album’s second half. To experience it, you’ll have to make do with the physical version, which is probably fine; if you don’t own a copy of this, you’re missing something pretty special anyway. But as long as Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love is unavailable, streaming as a medium remains imperfect. – JT

albums not on Apple Music 3 feet highDe La Soul3 Feet High and Rising
(1989; Tommy Boy)

The digital fate of De La Soul’s Congressionally-protected debut album—not to mention its near-equal sequel, De La Soul Is Dead—is largely tied to its renegade sample use. In fact a piece of litigation surrounding this album, in which the Turtles sued De La over a 12-second snippet, helped set some precedent in the business of sample clearances. Back then copping samples dwelled in some grey legal area that’s since been a bit more clarified, and the stark reality of why you can’t find 3 Feet High and Rising for sale online relates to the massive fees Warner Brothers doesn’t want to pay for permission to distribute them digitally. (Which didn’t prevent De La from distributing the album for free, along with the rest of their catalog, on Valentine’s Day 2014, apparently through a regulation-free Russian server.)

3 Feet High and Rising remains a staggering achievement, one of the cornerstone albums that blew the possibilities of hip-hop wide open. As charter members of the positive, Afrocentric Native Tongues posse, Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo countered rap’s braggadocio with a peace-loving, consciousness-raising façade that predated far more serious groups like Arrested Development. But there’s a sub-subversive element to that blitheness, fed by producer Prince Paul’s manic use of pop-soul samples and sonic joke inserts, and De La’s own goofy youthfulness teeming over with optimism (“Change in Speak,” “Eye Know”) and hormones (“Jenifa Taught Me,” “Buddy”). As social commentators they pulled no punches in the bleak portraits of “Ghetto Thang” and “Say No Go,” as assuredly as they twisted the magical fairytales of “Tread Water” and the inscrutable “Potholes on My Lawn.” Its utter originality and seamless sequencing is both embracing and overwhelming. 3 Feet High and Rising and De La are long overdue for a sanctioned revival, if we could just get stakeholders to consider a Daisy Age discount. – PP

albums not on apple music AenimaToolAenima
(1996; Volcano)

You can’t find Tool’s music on Apple Music. You can’t find it on Spotify either, or Rdio for that matter. Maybe once upon a time you might have been able to seek out a not-really-legal stream on Grooveshark, but ever since the service shut down, that’s a bust too. But it goes beyond that—you can’t even buy Tool’s music on iTunes, which actually makes them a little bit different than a lot of the other artists on this list. Tool are extremely strict about the presentation of their music. They still believe in the album, for one, and don’t want to allow the option of having their songs purchased individually, outside of the context they’re presented. And that, obviously, goes for streaming too. But the band takes it a step further, not even allowing their label to release the tracks on a compilation of greatest hits. So, if you want to listen to Aenima, you have to do it on the band’s terms. Or you can rip it to your computer and edit it down to 30 minutes. That’s your call. – JT

Smog Knock KnockSmogKnock Knock
(1998; Drag City)

It’s not just artists who have kept their music away from the major streaming services—labels have kept entire catalogs from being accessible as well, most notably Chicago indie Drag City. Since its inception in 1989, Drag City has been fiercely independent, and staunchly non-commercial. Its first full-length release was Royal Trux’s Twin Infinitives, which would probably honestly break modern forms of music technology. But that also means that all the other artists on the label, like Bill Callahan for instance, aren’t available for your streaming pleasure. And Callahan’s catalog, particularly his 1998 Smog album Knock Knock, could certainly stand to have a wider audience. It’s a brilliantly written, sometimes quirky, often poetic piece of indie rock that sounded like a classic shortly after it was released. But Drag City has long been more cautious with their business practices than a lot of labels in a similar league. “There are too many people out there who don’t value their own exposure, who want (their music) to get to the maximum number of people and they don’t care what they have to do,” said Drag City sales manager Rian Murphy in a 2007 Seattle Times article about paid downloads. “This is the reason, as far as I’m concerned, that the industry is in trouble.” – JT

Boris - PinkBorisPink
(2006; Southern Lord)

This album could very well be a stand-in for any album that’s gone out of print. But the beauty of digital media is that nothing should ever go out of print, right? Well, that’s not always the case. The entire Boris catalog, outside of their recent Sargent House releases and a handful of collaborations, is missing from not only iTunes, but Apple Music, Spotify—pretty much any legal digital outlet. Which is a bummer, but they’re not the only band once affiliated with Southern Lord where you’ll see major gaps in their catalog (Wolves in the Throne Room’s Two Hunters is elusive on streaming services as well). But then again, Boris is the kind of band that’s best heard on vinyl (make that colored vinyl with alternate, longer versions of each song) so if you’ve got the itch, might as well close the laptop, drop the needle and seek out whatever chaser you need to enjoy this crusty, devastating slab of raucous sludge metal. – JT

albums not on Apple Music YsJoanna NewsomYs
(2006; Drag City)

So, this is basically the same situation as the Smog album. It was released on Drag City Records, and therefore, it’s not part of the whole streaming thing. But to some degree, streaming Joanna Newsom’s music on your phone or at your desktop never made that much sense anyway—here, put some 12-minute harp-driven mini-symphonies on during your commute or in the background at work. No, it’s intricate, elaborate music that’s meant to earn your full attention, thanks to Newsom’s epic songwriting and, on this record in particular, Van Dyke Parks’ lush string arrangements. Ys is not Newsom’s most accessible album by some margin, though you can’t stream The Milk Eyed Mender either, so that’s neither here nor there. – JT

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View Comments (13)
  • Great piece. Though the reasons why these albums aren’t on Apple are interesting, what makes this article is the background info on each album. Top writing.

  • Very interesting article. I will say, though, all these albums, except for any album by King Crimson and Prince, are on YouTube.

  • Boris’s Pink album (and a lot more of their catalogue) is legitimately available on emusic. I downloaded it from there a couple of weeks ago.


    NOTE: I live in Australia – geo-licensing constraints might mean it isn’t available in the US. I honestly don’t know if that is the case or not.

    • The Boris catalog is available to purchase on emusic in the US, too. Wonder why that seems to be the one place you can find it digitally.

      • I saw Absolutego on both Google Play & Amazon Mp3. I also saw Amplifier Worship, Akuma no Uta, and Rock Dream on Amazon MP3. Neither have Pink, oddly enough.

  • Great article! Damn hard to get Shihad (except Bullitproof under the name Pacifier) as well! Particularly in tha US. Well worth it though.

  • The Joke worthy itunes vs itunes adventure has been ongoing since the iTunes Top 100 charts came to be. The music from the beatles was not sold there for a long time…They finally got some agreement worked out in 2009 and the conversation was actually relevant to music sales. (Not long after, the Beatles decimated the iTunes charts proving to the itunes corporation that they are a diamond to be held.) But ever since, the catalog has long been gone. (outside of youtube.com ).It’s not on spotify, or apple! i’ts just weird to listen to an album like revolver though; It’s not as though I need to take acid to like it, but there’s absolutely some sort of physical feel (Almost synesthesia) to the album, almost like you’re… dying.”

  • here is an album that has a song I want to buy, but it ain’t on iTunes
    High tide by High Tide
    Also, King CVriomson finally decided that they are fine with adding their discography to the iTunes store, but when I search up King Crimson on the music app it shows me what was on there before they added everything.

  • As of 2020, 3 Feet High and Rising is the only album on this list that is not available on Apple Music.

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