Kanye West, Tidal may shake up streaming music

We can no longer ignore Kanye West like we’ve been trying to do for years — he’s talking tech. And to tech.

Over the weekend, the rapper Twitter-pleaded for Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page to “invest” in him because he’s in debt.

But what’s really getting our attention is where West’s music streams, because it could affect the future of streaming. Right now, West’s new album is available exclusively on Tidal, the streaming service relaunched last year by Jay Z and other high-profile musicians.

It’s not the first time a musician has gone exclusive — we of course wrote about Taylor Swift and her famous stand against Spotify, and her subsequent tie-up with Apple after she pressured the company last year over its compensation of artists during the service’s free trial.

See, Swift and West actually agree on something.

Except that West’s loyalties lie only with Tidal. As he also said on Twitter this weekend:

While many of us will probably find the will to survive without hearing West’s album, the man does have fans. And if enough Taylor Swifts and Kanye Wests and Adeles withhold their albums from one streaming service or another, those of us who subscribe to such services may eventually find there’s not enough value in it. Or we might be forced to subscribe to more than one.

So Tidal is now the only place to listen to West’s “The Life of Pablo.” Last month, Rihanna’s new album premiered first on Tidal. Beyonce’s new single, “Formation,” is available exclusively on Tidal, and there’s speculation that her new album might follow the same route. All this has propelled the app to No. 1 on Apple’s App Store, not bad for a service whose future didn’t seem very bright a year ago.

Still, some analysts don’t think Tidal will be making too many waves.

“The release of Kanye West’s album has rocketed Tidal up the Apple App Store charts, but their numbers are so small they are unlikely to make a visible difference to Apple or Spotify, who remain the two leaders in music streaming,” wrote Richard Windsor, analyst at Edison Investment Research, in a note Tuesday.

And giving a boost to Tidal might not be the only result of West’s high-profile keep-away game. There are now reports that West’s album has been illegally downloaded half a million times.


Updated above to include analyst’s comment.

Photo: Left to right: Madonna, Deadmau5, Kanye West, and Jay Z onstage at the Tidal launch event on March 30, 2015 in New York City.  (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Roc Nation)


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  • alrui

    The guy is broke & he’s trying to scam people out of some of their hard earned $ PERIOD! These people are performers folks, please stop thinking that they are anything more then such.

  • lithium451

    “We can no longer ignore Kanye West like we’ve been trying to do for years — he’s talking tech. And to tech.”

    You lost me right there

  • Wrily

    Who needs ANY streaming service? Keep ALL of them.