It takes a hell of a lot to be on top in the world of streaming music. It seems like companies startup as fast as they exit because the competition eats em' alive. But when you're Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Kanye West, why not take a chance by running an artist-owned streaming company and promise to "forever change the course of music history? It sounds a lot like something that happened in Hollywood back in 1919... when four actors decided to ditch commercial studios and start their own called United Artists. And we're pretty sure Tidal is following the footsteps of UA that head down the road to failure.
United Artists was formed in 1919 by the leading figures in Hollywood at that time: D.W Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. They wanted to start a studio so they could control their own interests and gain the respect they felt like they deserved rather than depending on commercial studios. UA had to work from the weekly prepayment installments from theater owners for their upcoming movies (versus selling stock to the public, like other studios were doing). Because of this struggle, United Artists had an annual average of five movies in the first five years they were up and running. In 1924, Griffith dropped out and it was only Fairbanks, Pickford, and Chaplin.
It took UA nearly four decades of plateaus and struggles until they saw some sort of steady progress. They went from five movies a year to 50. But even that wasn't enough to keep up with their competitors. MGM ended up buying it, then it flopped around a bit and was resurrected by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner in 2006. Unfortunately, it ended up completely folding and is now only known by its name and a few mediocre movies. It was a good (and surprisingly long) effort but it didn't quite take over the world of film.
United Artists and Tidal have a strange parallel between them. Jay-Z and Beyonce would be Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in this scenario. Douglas and Mary were married for a while and many referred to them as Hollywood royalty. Mary Pickford actually landed the nickname "Queen of the Movies and we all know Beyonce is THE Queen B. Kanye West is Charlie Chaplin; a talented, strange little man full of controversy and scandal. And the rest of the 13 or whatever musician shareholders are D.W. Griffith. It took Griffith less than 5 years till he lost hope in United Artists and bailed. Tidal officially launched in 2014 then was relaunched by Jay-Z in 2015. It's only a matter of time before the shareholders see the lack of progress/success with Tidal and call it quits, leaving only Jay, Bey, and Ye (exactly like Fairbanks, Pickford, and Chaplin, see?).
Before we dig a little deeper, here's a little about Tidal for anyone who's out of the mainstream music loop. Jay-Z bought a Swedish company called Aspiro - who originally owned Tidal - and decided to relaunch Tidal a little over a year ago. He was joined by 16 shareholders and amongst those co-owners are Jay's wifey and right-hand man, Beyonce and Kanye West. Other co-owners include Calvin Harris, Rihanna, Daft Punk, Chris Martin, Jack White, Jason Aldean, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj,Usher, Madonna, Deadmau5, J.Cole, and Arcade Fire. Whoa, that is quite the impressive list of world-class musicians. But that's the point. Behind every mainstream artist is hundreds of thousands of supportive fans. By offering exclusive, high-quality music and videos while ensuring the artists are treated fairly is how Tidal intended on turning those fans into subscribers.
So what is going wrong with Tidal that's dragging them into the same abyss that United Artists went down? Well, Tidal is almost like that flame that "burns twice as bright for half as long. Except the wick on the candle is puny and the flame is dull. Tidal takes pride in being artist-owned and getting fans to support the musicians they love by paying more for a streaming service that offers "exclusive perks. All in an effort to make sure the creative value behind music isn't forgotten and those artists who are streamed through Tidal are paid more. So, instead of putting a bunch of multi-millionaires on stage to complain about not getting paid enough, it would've made more sense to get a group of underground, up-and-coming artists to back Tidal who are actually struggling to make it in the music industry.
Tidal charges nearly twenty dollars a month for access to high-quality video and sound along with some other services. If you're not locked into your surround sound at home or in your car with your fully-equipped sound system, are you really going to care that much about the quality? Doubtful. Tidal offers exclusive releases of videos and albums (like Kanye's and Beyonce's) which prompts fans to subscribe to Tidal to gain access. The people who are refusing to pay the high cost of Tidal might eventually resort back to pirate sites that drive traffic to torrent sites, ultimately causing more problems for emerging artists.
Mumford & Sons were not asked to be part of the co-owner squad but frontman Marcus Mumford said they would have easily said no if Jay-Z were to ask. Marcus said, "We want people to listen to our music in the most comfortable way, and if they aren't up for paying for it, I don't really care.
What Tidal needs to do is have a team meeting with all the rich, successful, mainstream artists behind it and do better. Not a lot of people can swallow the huge pill that is $19.99 (or even $9.99) per month to stream music from the handful of artists that even support Tidal. Especially when there are so many affordable competitors like Spotify, Apple, Beats, Soundcloud, Rhapsody, and Pandora. And not a lot of emerging artists want to be on Tidal when there are millions and millions of subscribers to Tidal's competitors. Music is changing and it's never been so easy for music to be heard and discovered through streaming.
Tidal is hanging on by a thread. Jay-Z, Beyonce and Kanye are the Fairbanks, Pickford, and Chaplin of the music industry. And as both United Artists and Tidal were meant to be artist-owned, game-changing companies, they both headed down a slippery slope. It's time to head back to the playbook before Tidal becomes the next music streaming service to drown.