On the 19th anniversary of Aaliyah’s death, the singer's estate shared some major news: various record labels are now in talks about making her music available to stream on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal.
“To our loyal fans,” the estate announced on Twitter. “We are excited to announce that communication has commenced between the estate and various record labels about the status of Aaliyah’s music catalogue, as well as its availability on streaming platforms in the near future. Thank you for your continued love and support. More updates to come!”
Right now, you can listen to a handful of Aaliyah’s singles and remixes on streaming services, but the only accessible album is her 1994 debut, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. Her other two studio albums, One in a Million and the chart-topping Aaliyah, aren’t available to stream. There’s a complicated backstory here: the masters for these two albums are owned by Barry Hankerson, her uncle and the founder of Blackground Records, her old, now-defunct label. Making matters even more confusing, all three albums are currently distributed by different labels, which are probably the ones in talks with Aaliyah’s estate.
Fans have long wondered why One in a Million and Aaliyah aren’t available to stream, especially since Hankerson sold Aaliyah’s tapes to a company called Reservoir Media Management in 2012. Many blame Hankerson. As Stephen Witt wrote in a thoughtful Complex essay, it’s a disservice to Aaliyah’s legacy that her only streamable album is the one produced and primarily written by R. Kelly, an alleged sex abuser who fraudulently married Aaliyah when she was only 15. “Right now, the music industry is [in] the midst of a shift to an all-streaming landscape,” Witt wrote, calling on Hankerson to release Aaliyah’s records. “When the transition is complete, if Aaliyah's catalog isn't on the right platforms, her music could functionally cease to exist.”
When she was just 22 years old, Aaliyah died in a tragic plane crash. All three of her albums, which will hopefully be on streaming services soon, were certified double platinum, and her other accolades included a VMA, multiple Grammy nominations, and several posthumous American Music Awards wins.