In late March, Jay-Z announced plans for a subscription streaming service called Tidal. The service was positioned to rival already extremely popular digital music streaming platforms including Spotify and Pandora. Jay-Z’s marketing strategy, however, was to persuade people to subscribe to Tidal by stating it’s the only music platform available owned by artists. Tidal also differs from other services because of its type of available subscriptions. A user can pay $9.99 a month for standard definition audio, or $19.99 a month for high definition audio. Unlike Spotify, there is no free subscription offered for Tidal.
Still, while the idea sounded reasonable, the Tidal launch event quickly caught negative buzz. In a March 30, 2015, New York Times article, author Ben Sisario writes the following:
The plan was unveiled on Monday at a brief but highly choreographed news conference in Manhattan, where Jay Z stood alongside more than a dozen musicians identified as Tidal’s owners. They included Rihanna, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Jack White, Alicia Keys, the country singer Jason Aldean, the French dance duo Daft Punk (in signature robot costumes), members of Arcade Fire, and Beyoncé, Jay Z’s wife.
Gawker’s review of the event, in a post titled “The World’s Most Famous Musicians Just Hosted a Bonkers Press Conference,” skewered the multitude of famous musicians involved. “Only a few minutes ago, the entire music industry stood on a stage in a collective display of how rich and out of touch they are. They think you are willing to pay up to double the price of other streaming music services to pay for their streaming music service, because they are crazy,” wrote Gawker writer Sam Biddle.
That sentiment was echoed throughout social media.
Perhaps #TIDALforALL's message should've focussed on supporting emerging & independent artists, instead making the super rich even more rich
— Matt Creer (@MattCreerMusic) March 31, 2015
Perhaps it would've been better if #TIDALforALL started by championing some emerging artists who aren't mega-rich?
— John Guy Johnston (@jjprojects) March 31, 2015
Capitalism: Take a product that already exists, rebrand it with words like "better" and "exclusive", and ask for twice as much. #TIDALforALL
— Foley (@fowu) March 31, 2015
The reaction wasn’t much better in major online publications. Regarding “Why Tidal Sounds Doomed,” Techcrunch said, “The problem is Tidal subscriptions costs $20 for high-definition streaming and $10 for regular quality, with no free ad-supported option. Most people won’t pay.” Fortune wrote, “But the event was big on pomp and small on details. At the event, executives and artists offered little insight into Tidal’s royalty rates and few reasons why consumers would abandon existing services to adopt Tidal’s.”
Though early on many thought Tidal would be a failure, only time would give a true indication if the service could actually compete with the current streaming music platforms. Well, the most recent news about Tidal’s performance isn’t great. In fact, the service appears to be floundering so far.
An April 21 article from BGR.com outlines how Tidal’s download numbers are nearly reaching flop-like levels. “Two weeks after Tidal briefly cracked the U.S. iPhone top 20 download chart, the app has crashed out of the top 700,” writes BGR.com’s Tero Kuittinen. He continues, “To make matters worse for Tidal, its main rivals are now surging. On April 20th, Pandora and Spotify occupied positions No. 3 and No. 4 on the U.S. iPhone revenue chart, respectively. This was the first time two music streaming services have hit the top 4 in sales simultaneously.”
It seems even the pop music superstars who were originally behind Tidal’s launch are backing off their support. A very recent Gawker article points out that Kanye West deleted his tweets in support of the Tidal. In that same Gawker article, a commenter wrote a scathing review of Tidal.
Personally, I tried the web application for Tidal very briefly on its initial launch. However, as a very happy Spotify premium subscriber, which is $10 a month, I saw no reason what so ever to switch. Plus, I would be lying if Tidal’s launch didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth as rich pop music stars seemingly patting themselves on the back. Until the service comes through with a plan of how it will support independent artists, I’ll be sticking to Spotify and Bandcamp.