For a limited time, the iTunes Store is end-to-end streaming Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, the group's first new studio release since 2005. You can pre-order the album now for $12 and download it on its May 21st release date. Although you can't choose individual tracks to play when previewing the album, you can start the stream playing and then use iTunes' scrub controller to move through the album.
The Internet has been alive with rumors that the streaming release was offered to spoil early pirated releases of the album. While there certainly are pirated versions of the album floating around, they are predominantly copies of the iTunes stream rather than versions obtained elsewhere.
Additionally, this isn't a first for iTunes. Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, David Bowie's The Next Day, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' I'm With You were also offered as end-to-end streams prior to their release. This strongly hints that this was simply another high-profile album being granted a unique promotional opportunity.
Listeners can choose to read the tea leaves any way they like, but it's hard to think of this as a bad thing. It provides potential buyers the opportunity to listen to the entire album (multiple times, if they like) before committing cash to it, thus eliminating complaints about iTunes' 90-second previews. The buzz generated by the rare stream brings attention to the album, which exposes more people to it. And it burnishes the iTunes Store's image as the place to hear exclusive releases from major artists.
If Random Access Memories follows the pattern of other such promotions, it will be available for streaming until its release date.