The company appropriated social media tactics from viral activist groups, but couldn’t generate any positive press.
Tidal, Jay Z’s new music streaming service, was launched less than a month ago, but in its brief existence it has stirred up one of 2015’s biggest ongoing news stories. From the cryptic firsts tweets by endorsed celebrities, to the pompous press conference, to the transparent grasp for positive publicity, each phase of the company’s social media campaign has been more bizarre than the last. The latest, and possibly final chapter of the discussion is by far the most expected. Tidal flopped.
Peaking as the nineteenth most downloaded app in the app store, the service has since fallen out of the top 700. At this point, Tidal is more of a meme than anything else.
In more ways than one, the company’s approach to social media has taken an obvious influence from viral activism, the most successful example being Invisible Chidren’s Kony 2012 campaign. What a coincidence then that Invisible Children is shutting down in 2015. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if Tidal did the same.
In theory, the company took a smart, educated approach to crafting its identity on social media. It began with a group of musicians from the top of the A-list changing their profile pictures on Twitter to a bright blue square, and urging fans to “turn the tide” and “make history” by doing the same. With backing by Kanye West, Rihanna, Madonna, and a squad of other pop stars, the campaign had all the star power that made Kony 2012 such a success and then some, even before the cause had been revealed.
As soon as that cause was revealed to be $20-a-month hifi streaming service, support for the campaign all but disappeared. The cause was and still is noble-artists deserve to be paid for their work, and Spotify’s rate of $0.006 per stream, as Time reports, is not enough to actually help most artists. Many in the music industry are further bothered by Spotify’s free option, and the way in which it totally devalues music.
On the other hand, Jay Z and Tidal vastly overestimate the general public’s sympathy for millionaire musicians. Pairing this message with some of the richest names in entertainment made the message seem disingenuous and the revolutionary language manipulative. In the weeks following, Tidal is seen as more of a villain than a hero. One would be hard pressed to find a single positive review of the service or positive commentary on the campaign anywhere on the internet from someone who is not being paid by Tidal.
As we discussed in class, its extremely difficult to persuade people into paying for what they are used to getting for free. This is the challenge that Tidal has failed to meet. While Tidal’s competitors must delight in its failure, the failure did reveal how negatively many react to the idea of paying for a music streaming service. This is particularly bad news for Spotify, a company that has yet to turn a profit, and will, in all likelihood, have to eventually do away with its free option as more subscribers force the company to pay more and more to artists and labels. The task is now up to Spotify, or another streaming service like Beats Music, to market its paid option as something either vital to the music industry or worthwhile to the customer. Judging how reliant Tidal was on the former, the next service would be wise to stick to the latter.