Quoted: Checking in on Jay Z’s Tidal music streaming service

“When you make music, your goal is to get it everywhere, not to make it exclusive. That’s the way the music industry works.”

Alice Enders, music industry analyst, on Tidal, Jay Z’s streaming-music effort — which among other things hopes to attract users with music they can’t find elsewhere.

A Bloomberg article takes a look at Tidal, which was relaunched by Jay Z and some of his famous friends — musicians who also invested in the service — in March, and says its future doesn’t seem very bright. (This echoes early reaction to the service.) Some of the reasons Bloomberg cites: The Tidal app was No. 9 on the iTunes list of top-grossing music apps in May; Tidal is still negotiating with Sony about streaming rights — and could lose albums by Sony artists including Beyonce; its self-reported 900,000 users might bolt once their free trials are up; it failed to secure an investment from Sprint; it’s facing stiff competition in Spotify and possibly Apple’s upcoming Beats Music streaming service.

Back to exclusive content: Is it a positive or a negative? After all, streaming exclusive video content has worked out pretty well for Netflix. But it may be different for the music industry. If musicians’ albums are available on other services — and artists may not have control over streaming rights to pull their music from those services — the only way Tidal might be able to differentiate itself is by offering exclusive content. All it has to do is persuade people to pay for subscriptions just to find music they haven’t had the chance to hear yet — Tidal offers no free tier.


Photo: From left, Madonna, Deadmau5, Kanye West, and Jay-Z stand onstage at the Tidal launch event in March in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Roc Nation)


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  • sd

    Tidal has a number of problems. I don’t see how it will fix enough of them to survive.

    1) There may be a free trial, but there is no free version. They might be better served by taking a page from T-Mobile and offering to rebate customers some eye-catching amount of money to stick with a 6- or 9-month subscription.

    2) Losing Sony would be a real blow. Wonder how many prospective customers are waiting to see them finalize an agreement.

    3) While the — umm, hook — for Tidal is that they were paying musicians more for their work, there still is a bit of a backlash that people like Jay Z and Madonna really don’t need to be paid any better. I don’t know the exact compensation scheme Tidal uses, but a sliding scale, heavily weighted toward the more obscure artists, would go a way to address this perception. Take it out of the $$$$ being paid the top stars; they’re making enough from other services that a cut on what they get out of Tidal is no big deal.

    As for exclusive content, I think it depends on the form that takes. If the exclusive content is a couple of weeks being the only service offering new Taylor Swift singles and albums, exclusive content could work. If the exclusive content is singles from a band concocted out of some random reality contest, it’s no reason to spend money on Tidal.