A Look at Jay Z’s new Tidal Music Service
Jay Z’s new music service, Tidal, recently hit the scene. Although “Jigga Man” has rarely failed in his business endeavors, Tidal looks like a gigantic flop. Jay Z, born Shawn Carter, is basically attempting to piggy back on Apple’s iTunes pay for play music service. Yet he has not had anywhere near the success of Apple nor has his service met the expectations of its investors.
While everyone knows about Apple and plenty are knowledgeable about the company’s iTunes music service, hardly anyone is aware of Tidal. The music service has aired a television commercial featuring music superstars including Carter, Daft Punk, Beyonce Knowles, Madonna and others. Yet the public response has been incredibly underwhelming. App Annie data indicates that Tidal has fallen from the 23rd most popular app at March’s end to a current ranking of 872. That’s quite the free fall in a very short period of time. It’s even worse when one considers that music services Pandora and Spotify rank third and fourth on the U.S. iPhone revenue chart, respectively.
Tidal’s pitch is centered on high quality streaming music and financial fairness for artists. While everyone respects an artist’s right to make a living, Tidal is proving that few music fans actually want to pay another human being for simply making music. Most consumers will admit that if they spent their time working on a collection of songs, they would like to be compensated for their efforts. Yet Tidal appears to be a total failure because the company enlisted the help of multimillionaire musicians to tout the service. Few, if any, consumers are interested in fattening the pockets of these already wealthy superstars. If Tidal had rolled out a series of commercials featuring uber-talented musicians unknown to the general public, the response might have been much more positive. There is little doubt that the public would throw its support behind “starving artists” who create quality music but do not reap anywhere near their fair share of the profits.
The preliminary failure of Tidal goes to show that the way for a musician to succeed in the 21st century is to tour extensively and sell merchandise. Music fans are more than willing to shell out top dollar to see their favorite performers put on a live show. Some will even plop down $35 for a t-shirt featuring their favorite rapper, singer or rock band. Yet few are willing to actually pay for the music through a streaming service like Tidal, especially when the same music can be streamed for free on YouTube or pirated off of a bit torrent.
Tidal proves that the music business has transitioned from a listening experience to a watching experience. Fans of artists like Rihanna aren’t interested in paying to listen to her through a pair of headphones. They would rather spend that money to watch her perform live. After all, Rihanna is worth over $100 million. Tidal’s business model does not invoke any sympathy from music fans toward these already rich megastars. Perhaps Tidal should have launched the service with a “free tier” that gave listeners a taste of its high quality audio streams and extensive catalog. Unfortunately, the fact that the service failed to enlist support from musicians who genuinely need more money will likely prove to be its Achilles’ heel.