Tidal: What can we learn from its mistakes


Tidal is Jay-Z’s subscription-based music streaming service which was initially released in the UK, US and Canada in October 2014 before rolling out across other countries in 2015. It was supposed to be revolutionary to ensure artists and songwriters were paid higher royalties whilst offering consumers high fidelity, lossless audio.

Yet despite being on the market for merely a couple of months, Tidal doesn’t seem to be making waves. In fact, it’s now dropped out of Apples top 750 apps and the CEO along with 25 employees have left the company.

So, what went wrong for Tidal and what can we learn from its mistakes?

  1. Show value to the user. There is arguably some great value in Tidal for users, such as having access to exclusive content from artists. However, this hasn’t been the focus of their marketing. Instead, they’ve opted to have a number of well-known celebrities endorse the service and discuss their increase in royalties. Using well known multimillionaires, such as Kanye West and Nicki Minaj, just left consumers with the message “you should feel sorry about how little Nicki makes”. Endorsements are usually successful for already established brands but startups can’t solely rely on this method to succeed. Tidal has seemingly made the main focus of their marketing how the service will value the artists rather than the consumer, meaning few will connect emotionally or care enough to purchase a subscription.
  2. If you have nothing nice to say about your competitors, don’t say anything at all. Unfortunately, Tidal came in like a bully and positioned their dominance by bad-mouthing their competition. This backfired tremendously as Spotify powered back into the iPad top 40 download chart on March 31st, and by April 20th both Spotify and Pandora were at 3 and 4 on the iPhone revenue chart. It appears the peak in downloads were a direct consequence of Tidal’s media campaign that sought to expose their smaller payouts to artists, which just boosted public awareness of the other services.
  3. Get your pricing strategy right. Tidal has two subscription plans available, both of which are more expensive than their competitors who also offer free ad-supported subscriptions. Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard has commented that consumers might be more inclined to pay the higher prices had the marketing campaign used struggling independent artists who would benefit from Tidal rather than the overreliance on well-known celebrity endorsements. “There was a wonderful opportunity squandered to highlight what this service would mean for artists who are struggling and to make a plea to people‚Äôs hearts and pocketbooks to pay a little more for this service that was going to pay these artists a more reasonable streaming rate”. The premium subscription plan offers users high fidelity, lossless audio. It’s not helped when reports claim expensive headphone or speakers are required to enjoy these benefits.

As is always the case with everything digital, the user comes first and evry decision should be made with the user at the forefront. Unfortunately, Tidal has embarked on a marketing strategy that focuses on the wrong messages, which completely misunderstands their audience. The opportunity for success is definitely there though so it will be interesting to see if and how Tidal manages to turn it around.

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