×

What’s Wrong With Jay Z’s Tidal Streaming Music Service Plan

Now let me get this straight … piracy can be eradicated if artists just band together in the name of money?

That’s what Tidal is all about, cash: for the misguided artists who believe this latest subscription streaming service is their financial savior, but primarily for Jay Z, who used OPM (other people’s money) to buy the service recently for $56 million, with an eye on a big score.

But things don’t happen that way. Did Jay call PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel? If he did, he would have learned to go where there’s no competition. That’s how you win in the tech space. But Spotify’s got traction, Apple has a ton of cash, and Deezer and Rdio are players. If you think Tidal’s gonna walk right in and get huge market share, you probably believed iTunes Radio was gonna neuter Pandora. Hell, even Jimmy Iovine couldn’t neuter Spotify. Beats Music was a disaster in its initial incarnation. Give Jimmy credit for selling the enterprise to Apple, but without the profit-making headphones, there wouldn’t have been billions involved.

Spotify was successful because of the deep pockets of its owners, who were willing to lose on the way to winning. Beats Music did not have these deep pockets, and Tidal certainly does not, unless artists are all willing to kick in double-digit millions to turn the tide.

That’s what a venture capitalist does. To see Jay Z try to triumph in tech is like watching WME and CAA throw cash at investments/incubated projects. These are not their areas of expertise.

First and foremost, you’ve got to pay for Tidal. And therefore it’s dead on arrival. Just like Apple’s new music service. Because people love their money more than their favorite artists. And the kind of person who pledges devotion to Tidal artists — including Kanye West, Rihanna, Madonna, Jack White, Alicia Keys, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj and Daft Punk — is the kind who’s waiting for his parents to put cash on his debit card. Now if Tidal had a free tier … but it doesn’t. It can’t afford to lose that much money; it’s not about the long haul. Neither is the position of the artists on the stage. I’d be much more impressed if they all ankled their deals, got rid of the major labels and went it alone. That’s why they’re not making much money on Spotify — not because of the free tier, but because their deals suck. But these same deals apply on Tidal. They’ve got to license the music from their bosses. It’s utterly laughable, like nursery school kids plotting against the teacher.

Sure, if you loaded Tidal with exclusive content, it would be attractive. But the iTunes Store wouldn’t promote your new release. That’s where your money is today. And what about future artists? How do they get a share of the pie?

Let’s say a new Hozier comes along, and Spotify outbids you; they certainly have deeper pockets. Then your monopoly on exclusive content falls apart, you Balkanize the landscape, and you hurt everybody in the ecosystem.

And artists can’t get along with themselves, never mind others. How do they decide whose album gets promoted and for how long? Furthermore, right now Tidal doesn’t have critical mass and artists need other platforms to succeed. You don’t expect retaliation? I do. I certainly expect artists to break ranks, to provide content to other companies, therefore dissipating the hegemony.

Maybe someone will buy Tidal, and everybody will get paid. But who is that company? Apple’s already got Beats. Facebook is about user-created content. Amazon is not about acquisitions. And Google already owns streaming music, with YouTube.

Why don’t these artists go home and write compelling music?

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content