Jay Z was forced to publicly take a defensive stance just a month after the launch of his high fidelity music streaming service Tidal this weekend, leaving the impression that some serious retooling may be in order.
Tidal, which offers both a lossless and a standard streaming experience for $20 and $10 per month respectively, has essentially been under fire since its star-studded launch on March 30, in which Jay Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Jack White, Nicki Minaj and a host of other music glitterati touted that the artist-run platform would put musicians and exclusive content first. Since then, a host of bad press has hit the service as its famous partners look to secure solid footing in the subscription streaming space.
First, Mumford & Sons called the A-list artist who participated in the launch ceremony “new school fucking plutocrats.” A few days later, a change in CEO was announced (along with 25 layoffs). Then, Tidal fell out of the Apple App Store’s Top 700 (while Spotify and Pandora remained at no. 3 and 4, respectively). Most recently, Page Six cited sources which said Apple may be trying to sabotage the service as the tech giant gears up to unveil its own streaming service built from the bones of Beats Music this June.
Understandably, Jay Z wanted to do some damage control. “Tidal is doing just fine,” said the rap mogul at the beginning of a Twitter rant yesterday. “We have over 770,000 subs. “We have been in business less than one month.”
He went on to highlight that artists will have full control of their music, a higher royalty rate and tried to counter the argument of the “rich getting richer.”
Indie artists who want to work directly w/ us keep 100% of their music. “If you don’t want the CEOs all in the videos” haa #tidalfacts
— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) April 26, 2015
Tidal pays 75% royalty rate to ALL artists, writers and producers – not just the founding members on stage. — Mr. Carter (@S_C_) April 26, 2015
Rich getting richer? Equity values… YouTube $390 billion. Apple $760 billion. Spotify $8 billion. Tidal $60 million. #TidalFacts
— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) April 26, 2015
The latter two statements are, well, simplified… to say the least. While Tidal’s 75 percent royalty rate is slightly higher than Spotify’s (claimed at 70 percent), royalties are passed along to an artist’s record label. The record label then divvies up the royalties to artists, writers, and producers as per their contract and streaming services have no control over that decision. As for Tidal being the financial underdog, Jay Z’s going to have a hard time explaining how this is the case when Jay and Bey have a combined net worth north of a billion.
But Jay Z and Co. are still hoping exclusive content will convince music fans to join the streaming service. Tidal launches an initiative called Tidal X to stream exclusive live performances tonight in New York, beginning with a J. Cole performance. “Fans will have an opportunity to see their favorite artists live in intimate venues, witnessing unique experiences that no one outside of Tidal will see,” according to a statement.
While exclusive content has been the new buzzword for up-and-coming subscription streaming platforms from the likes of Tidal, Apple, and others looking to differentiate themselves from Spotify, a few live shows and videos are all Tidal has put on display so far. Whether that will be enough to bring in new members, or cull users from Spotify’s massive user base — the majority of which listen for free — remains to be seen.