Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The Tidal effect

Jay Z’s streaming service is in the news and not just for Yeezy’s unfinished album

The Tidal shareholders get ready for the AGM

Wed, Mar 2, 2016, 09:54


Irish politicans are not the only ones who’ve had an interesting couple of weeks. Music streaming service Tidal has been in the headlines and despatches a lot in recent times. There was Kanye West using the service to exclusively get “The Life of Pablo” to the people, though that sort of back-fired. There were reports that Samsung were kicking the tyres with a view to purchasing the service, though these remain reports for now.

Naturally, there’s also a legal case with percussionist and keyboard player John Emanuele from “cinematic, electronica-tinged instrumental post-rock band from Queens, NY” The American Dollar’s and the band’s publisher Yesh Music suing the service over supposed underpayment of royalties, though this allegation was briskly rejected by Tidal.

Now comes news that the service has lost not one but two senior executives. Scandanavian newspapers have reported that the company’s Chief Financial Officer Chris Hart and Chief Operating Officer Nils Juell have both left the company (or, as the statement from the company puts it, “Tidal has terminated CFO Chris Hart and COO Nils Juell”). Music Business Worldwide’s report on the departures notes that there has been a string of high profile departures from Tidal since Jay Z took over the company last year including two Chief Executive Officers.

Few of the music fans who’ve encountered Tidal of late will have done so because of these stories from the music business beat. They’ll have arrived at Tidal because it was the service where Yeezy, Rihanna and Beyonce debuted new music and if they wanted to hear this music first, they had to get on the Tidal wave. While much has been made of Tidal’s high-end audio specifications, the reason why most people know about the service is because of these exclusives. By leveraging the new music of its pop star shareholders, Tidal has been able to get a jump on the competition and there’s no doubt that it has brought in new subscribers.

However, there’s also no doubt that Tidal remains in the lower tier when it comes to streaming subscriptions at the moment and that Spotify and Apple Music remain the big beats of the sector. There’s definitely room for more players to try to shoulder their way onto the pitch, but the question is if Tidal has the deep pockets required to stay in the game in the long run. Of course, this point also applies to Spotify, which is reported to be in discussions with investment firm TPG Capital about a $500 million cash injection. Spotify has already raised over $1 billion investment since being founded in 2008 and is yet to turn an annual profit so it needs that cash to keep going and for new Spotify-for-business developments which might well broaden its user base and grow its revenues. Those investors – and everyone with a dog in the fight – will be hoping streaming’s tipping point in terms of mainstream appeal will happen sooner rather than later.