Artists and technology companies are more determined than ever to use 360-degree audio as a hook to draw you in. J. Cole has made Apple Music the exclusive home for spatial audio mixes (in this case, Dolby Atmos) of his full catalog. You might need to switch services if you want to listen to 2014 Forest Hills Drive or The Off-Season with a more immersive soundstage.
The move doesn’t necessarily require new hardware. Dolby Atmos playback is automatic with recent AirPods and Beats earphones, but you can manually enable the format for Android or compatible third-party audio gear.
The deal comes just days after David Bowie’s estate made later albums available on a trio of services in Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, and shows how spatial audio has become a significant battleground. Streaming providers clearly hope you’ll subscribe to hear your favorite stars in a new way, but Apple, Sony and others also benefit by spurring sales of earbuds and other hardware. Don’t be surprised if you see more (and possibly larger) exclusives surface in the near future.
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