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LET’S TALK TIDAL

The Rep for Jay Z’s Streaming Service Makes a Huge Career Error by Talking to Us         

The launch of Tidal, the streaming platform founded by Jay Z and co-owned by a coterie of superstars, churned up significant coverage and social commentary last week.  On the positive side, we saw one of the strongest groupings of artists standing together since “We Are the World” went wide.  On the negative end, this grouping of artists appeared as if they were supporting a major cause--whereupon we learned that the cause was their own personal bank accounts. 

The site faced considerable negative feedback on social networks in the wake of its introductory press conference, with many commentators suggesting Jay, Beyoncé, Madonna, Rihanna, Alicia, Daft Punk, Nicki Minaj, Jack White, Deadmau5 and the rest were disguising a big-money play as a music-for-all liberation effort.

Additional pitfalls came when the price point for the “HiFi” (lossless) audio subscription, $19.99, was widely disseminated as the only price; it turns out Tidal also offers a “Premium” $9.99 tier comparable to that offered by its competitors. Then the first high-profile exclusive, Beyoncé’s anniversary song for hubby Jay Z, immediately leaked onto video-sharing sites.

We asked Senior Exec Vania Schlogel, who introduced the stars at the launch, for some additional info.

One key point underscored by Schlogel is that streaming is just one piece of the puzzle—Tidal (as Jay Z hinted recently) is envisioned as a hybrid media platform/social network, with content of all sorts served up directly to fans. Concert tickets, other events and social messages are some of the elements planned for this later stage of the rollout.  She also points to Tidal Rising and other curation features on the site, which are intended to aid music discovery and provide a platform for new artists (including recommendations from the site’s big names).

Schlogel notes that the lack of a free tier is fundamental to the project—and that “educating” consumers accustomed to thinking of music as an unlimited free resource is core to its mission. “We believe music has intrinsic value,” she asserts, adding that artists at all levels have responded positively to the entirely subscriber-based structure.

Downloads of the app have thus far not been substantial; it has not charted highly on mobile download stores. Still, while Schlogel declines to give out subscriber numbers, she says “We’re definitely happy with the traction we’re seeing.”

Tidal reps have indicated that they intend to pay a higher royalty than their competitors, but an even greater subject of discussion has been the 3% equity stake granted to the superstar co-founders who assisted in the rollout and have since lent their content to the effort. That participation is thus far like the stock in any startup, Schlogel says, and indicative of the leap of faith the co-founders are taking with this new model. Additionally, they say, new artists who elect to join Tidal will also participate in the equity upside of the company.

And what about those widely reported leaks of hitherto exclusive Tidal content?  Team Tidal knows full well that this is a feature of any content on the Internet, but they believe fans will appreciate the consistency of exclusive content constantly released through Tidal, and prefer to experience artist content on the platform the artists have chosen—with YouTube traffic ultimately limited to “those who are curious.”

It’s those fans on whom Tidal’s  fate depends. “I just reconnected with an old friend who posted his band’s music to Tidal,” Schlogel says. “He was excited to place his material on a platform that’s committed to re-establishing the value of music. A lot of our users are ride-or-die music fans who believe in the value of music. They’re the ones who encourage us to keep doing what we’re doing.”

We’ll be following this story closely, so stay tuned.

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