Timeline: Tidal’s brief (and troubled) attempt to revolutionize the music industry

Tidal has been a disruptive force in the music industry — just not in the way it would like to be.

Part of the alleged allure of the new music streaming service, which launched this Spring, was to premiere music videos on it. Which is great, if the videos actually load. It didn’t quite play out yesterday: Madonna’s star-studded “Bitch I’m Madonna” video froze three minutes in, igniting fury on Twitter.

This was surely not what Jay Z had envisioned when he announced the launch of Tidal three months ago. Back in March, he promised a revolution. The idea was to differentiate itself from Spotify, Rdio and others by offering high-fidelity music and exclusive features like concerts.

But from a business perspective, Tidal was meant to provide an alternative to artists (Kanye West, Rihanna, Calvin Harris just to name a few) displeased with music contracts of other streaming services.

“The challenge is to get everyone to respect music again, to recognize its value,” Jay Z told the New York Times. “Water is free. Music is $6 but no one wants to pay for music. You should drink free water from the tap — it’s a beautiful thing. And if you want to hear the most beautiful song, then support the artist.”

That eye-rolling statement, meant for us commoners to pity these millionaire troubadours who feel fleeced by their own fans.

It was just first of many of missteps that Tidal has encountered. Let’s review:

March 31: Tidal launches
Not quite a tsunami, Tidal proves to be an object of curiosity on day one. The bizarre press conference, radiating self-importance, was attended by Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Usher, Calvin Harris, Beyoncé, Rihanna and (obviously) Jay Z. One observer told Billboard the artists were ordered to line up in alphabetical order “like in grade school” and another said the service is only affordable for the “music’s 1 percent.”

April 1: Tidal trashed by the press
It didn’t take long for critics to come crashing down on Tidal. The Independent described it as a “messianic-like cult” that’s controlled by an extremely wealthy group of musicians who “want to make themselves even richer.” TechCrunch said it’s “doomed” because of its expensive subscription prices, while Gawker called the whole thing “crazy.”

April 14: Tidal trashed by other artists
Other artists — you know the very people who Tidal hoped to attract to the service — also blasted it. Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons was dismayed by the “tribalistic aspect” and called the owners “new school fucking plutocrats.” British songstress Lily Allen said the cost would force people back to pirating music and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard said it’s going to “fail miserably.”

April 17: Layoffs hit Tidal, new CEO installed
Growth pains hit the company hard in the form of layoffs. Business Insider reported 25 staffers were axed and a CEO Andy Chen was forced out. He was replaced by Peter Tonstad, the former CEO of Tidal’s parent company Aspiro.

April 26: Jay Z defends Tidal on Twitter
After nearly a month of negative press, Jay Z had had enough. Using the hashtag #TidalFacts, he defended Tidal on his Twitter account. He said there was a “smear campaign” against it and said it was doing “just fine. There was also this:

May 30: Bey bouncing?
Rumors swirled that Beyoncé, who happens to be the wife of Jay Z, was having her music pulled from Tidal because it didn’t secure the rights from Sony. The headlines made the Internet lick its lips because of the potential embarrassment, but Sony knocked down the rumor saying there are “no plans to remove our catalog from Tidal.” Whew!

June 8: Drake dips
Drake was slated to join Tidal, but left two days before its launch for reasons unknown. Instead he showed up at the launch of rival service Apple Music during the WWDC in San Francisco. He told new artists to use iTunes Connect, a service where artists can share their music. “The dream of being an artist like myself and connecting directly with an audience has never been more close and reachable than right now,” he said.

June 17: Madonna’s music video crashes
“Bitch I’m Madonna?” More like “Bitch, I can’t see your damn video!” 

Tidal fixed it a few hours later, yet the video made its way on to YouTube today.


More in Media

NewFronts Briefing: Samsung, Condé Nast, Roku focus presentations on new ad formats and category-specific inventory

Day two of IAB’s NewFronts featured presentations from Samsung, Condé Nast and Roku, highlighting new partnerships, ad formats and inventory, as well as new AI capabilities.

The Athletic to raise ad prices as it paces to hit 3 million newsletter subscribers

The New York Times’ sports site The Athletic is about to hit 3 million total newsletter subscribers. It plans to raise ad prices as as a result of this nearly 20% year over year increase.

NewFronts Briefing: Google, Vizio and news publishers pitch marketers with new ad offerings and range of content categories

Day one of the 2024 IAB NewFronts featured presentations from Google and Vizio, as well as a spotlight on news publishers.