In the music industry, nothing lasts forever. Artists can be one hit wonders, genres have 2-3 year runs on the Beatport Top 10, and news rips through the internet in a matter of hours. New streaming service TIDAL is not exempt from this, as every blog and news outlet has gone over Jay Z’s latest business venture with a fine-toothed comb. Even though it’s only been a month since the announcement, critics and consumers have done everything but call time of death on TIDAL. Let’s take a look at its meteoric rise (and subsequent fall) over the past few weeks in this handy timeline.
When a group of major artists turned their social media avatars teal, it was the first time many had ever heard of TIDAL. Though the service had already been around for months, knowledge of media mogul Jay Z’s acquisition made it a front page story. Though it promised “the first high fidelity, lossless [FLAC] music streaming service with 25 million tracks, 75,000 music videos, and expert editorial from experienced music journalists,” it was also the first streaming service that had no free option for its users, the first mis-step of many.
It wasn’t just Jay Z who was financially backing the service. The next day a video surfaced of some of the biggest artists in dance music in a board room, all stakeholders of TIDAL. Madonna, Daft Punk, Jack White, Kanye West, Deadmau5, Rihanna, Chris Martin of Coldplay and others were standing together to make a historic change to music, using #TIDALforALL as their hashtag. Free 30-day trials launched so people could see the new service for themselves.
April 2 – TIDAL unveils “Exclusive Content”
The second mis-step probably came around this time, as TIDAL didn’t actually have any exclusive content of real value, aside from a remastered version of Daft Punk’s third movie Electroma and one or two songs from Beyonce and Rihanna. With their record labels wrapped up in deals with other streaming services, artists weren’t pulling their catalogues from Spotify and Rhapsody either, even though they now owned a rival service.
April 4 – TIDAL’s Owners Are Worth Billions
While this wasn’t really a surprise, CelebrityNetWorth calculated that TIDAL’s new ownership were worth a collective $2.8 billion, with almost half of that coming from Jay Z and his wife Beyonce alone. This is where the public really began to doubt TIDAL’s true goals. If this was an app for independent artists, where were they during the launch? Even if they weren’t shareholders, even one well known person to speak on behalf of this largely underrepresented group should have been present, instead of listening to million-dollar artists alienate themselves further by saying they wanted to change the industry. Was this really a streaming service for the people, or was the overpriced subscription-only site just a ploy to line the pockets of the already rich?
April 5 – Deadmau5 Defends TIDAL
Deadmau5’s involvement in TIDAL drew the most questions from EDM fans. As someone who is a massive critic of the music industry, fans were trying to figure out why their beloved leader had joined a service that, on the surface, didn’t look like it was actually helping. He would go on to explain that his distaste for the record labels was in fact his reason for joining, in the hopes that TIDAL’s structure would allow more artists to not have to divvy up their royalties to people who didn’t deserve them. While his intentions were good, Deadmau5’s explanation and general visibility in the music industry, wasn’t enough to sway the public; many still didn’t believe TIDAL could succeed.
April 14 – Musicians Take Sides
Consumers weren’t the only ones skeptical about TIDAL’s ability to succeed. Mumford & Sons, Lily Allen, and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard all hit out against TIDAL. They all agreed that the launch itself was a failure, and that it looked like a ploy designed to only aid the already wealthy rather than truly help change the industry.
“There was a wonderful opportunity squandered to highlight what this service would mean for artists who are struggling and to make a plea to people’s hearts and pocketbooks to pay a little more for this service that was going to pay these artists a more reasonable streaming rate,” he continued. “And they didn’t do it. That’s why this thing is going to fail miserably.”
– Ben Gibbard
April 16 – TIDAL Rising Launched
After multiple prominent musicians called out Jay Z, TIDAL announced a new update to give emerging artists like Chastity Belt and Marika Hackman the spotlight. But here’s what I don’t understand: If the whole purpose of TIDAL was to give independent artists a chance to have more money in their pockets, why wasn’t TIDAL Rising among the first wave of announcements? It seems that the company was not acting, but only reacting to every criticism, drawing further scrutiny and dissatisfaction from the public.
April 17 – TIDAL Employees Fired
News broke just weeks after the launch, that Aspiro Group (TIDAL’s parent company) had fired not only their CEO Andy Chen, but a handful of other people on staff. What was even more alarming were the rumors that the employees didn’t have fair warning, and were pushed out with little to no explanation. Former CEO Peter Tonstad returned to the top, claiming that Chen didn’t have the vision needed to bring TIDAL success. While it was later revealed that the CEO and board members had to be replaced in order for Jay Z and the other shareholders to fully take control of TIDAL, on the outside it looked like TIDAL had officially entered a tailspin by firing so many of its employees so soon after launch day.
April 21 – TIDAL’s Numbers Nosedive
While the words of critics only carry so much weight, numbers are undeniable. TIDAL’S relaunch and free trial period created a surge in downloads. But once the negative reviews flowed in, downloads came to a screeching halt. TIDAL’s position on the App Store went from the Top 20 to the 700s, while competitors Spotify and Pandora never left the Top 5, an indirect result of attacks against these sites (even Beats Music rose into the Top 25 apps during this time). Once more, TIDAL’s strategies were backfiring and making the cheaper, more established sites gain even more popularity.
April 22 – Kanye Distances Himself from TIDAL
Only three weeks into the new venture, it already looked like artists were jumping ship, with the critical blow coming from Kanye West. The rapper – who is not only seen as a tastemaker, but is one of Jay Z’s closest friends – changed his teal avatar and deleted all tweets regarding TIDAL. Because of Kanye’s influence in the industry, deleting tweets created another PR nightmare for TIDAL, which was only solved by a half-assed tweet from Kanye West saying that he still supported the platform that would help save the industry.
April 26 – Jay Z Speaks Out
In a move that was probably too little, too late, Jay-Z finally took to Twitter to address the public about TIDAL. Only this came days after “KanyeGate” and included a ticking time bomb hashtag: #TIDALFacts. Jay Z’s twitter rant went on to state that the service already had 770,000 subscriptions (which were all still in their free 30-day trial period, mind you), and the public should be more patient, as even the iTunes store and Spotify didn’t become smashing successes overnight. Up until this point, Jay Z had maybe gained some sympathy points from the public, but then went on to blame other companies for organizing a smear campaign against TIDAL. To add further insult to injury, his #TIDALfacts hashtag activated the Internet trolls, specifically a parody twitter account.
Royalty rates have reportedly doubled for those involved. Artists receive $0.0000000002 per stream instead of $0.0000000001. #TidalFacts
— #TidalFacts (@FakeTIDALFacts) April 26, 2015
As if this couldn’t any worse, TIDAL marked it’s one-month anniversary by increasing subscription prices. The entry level plan has jumped from $9.99 to $12.99 and the premium has gone from $19.99 to $25.99. Seriously though, who would opt to pay $300+ a year for a music service when Spotify is $Free.99? To make things even more depressing, Jay-Z announced that he’d be performing an exclusive concert for TIDAL customers at an intimate New York City venue next month. But it still comes at a cost: in order to be selected , fans have to interact with the app and curate playlists good enough to be selected from Hova himself.
So now, with 30 days under their belt, the world has turned their back on TIDAL. Poor app development, a ridiculous price tag, and a string of bad PR moves have caused the service to crash and burn before even getting a chance to leave the runway. If Jay Z and the other shareholders want to get back on the good side of the public, it will take multiple big moves to do so. But as long as TIDAL refuses to offer their services with a free tier, there’s a pretty good chance no one will even remember this failure by the time summer’s over.