The battle for consumers in the streaming-music space just got star-studded. To celebrate the Monday launch of Tidal, the streaming-music service recently acquired by Jay Z and fellow investors, top recording artists such as Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Kanye West and Jay Z himself have all switched their social-media avatars to a sky-blue color employed in Tidal’s branding. A few tweeted out support using the hashtag #TidalForAll. Tidal is trending on Twitter, but not Facebook.
Jay Z, aka Shawn Carter, has wasted little time in promoting Tidal since he and his group of investors acquired it for a reported $56 million this month. Days before that deal was finalized, Carter and all the stars that have shown support for Tidal on social media Monday morning reportedly joined Carter in Los Angeles for a meeting about how Tidal could be a platform that could be primarily profitable for artists rather than for record labels.
In some ways, the move is reminiscent of the approach another music mogul, Dr. Dre, used to promote his Beats By Dre headphones years ago, when the marketing team made every effort to get the headphones onto celebrities, star athletes and other tastemakers: Getting a product on or associated with celebrities make it appear to be an essential lifestyle accessory. Carter would be well-positioned to duplicate that strategy. As the head of Roc Nation LLC, Carter has access to the cream of the music industry, as well as a number of top sports stars, including Kevin Durant, the NBA’s reigning most valuable player, and Victor Cruz, the New York Giants’ star wide receiver.
Sustained support by Carter’s famous friends will likely be crucial to Tidal’s success. Carter has signaled that Tidal will be a product emphasizing curation and offering exclusive releases. That strategy will put it in direct competition with Apple Inc.’s forthcoming streaming service, which recently hired top British radio disc jockey Zane Lowe and where top executive Jimmy Iovine is busy looking to secure releases that will be exclusive to that platform, rumored to be launching this summer.
How deeply Carter’s friends commit to Tidal over time remains to be seen. Although they changed their Twitter avatars Monday morning, many of them, including Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, had profiles that consisted solely of links to the iTunes Store, where people could purchase their music rather than stream it. In addition, few of Tidal’s supporters are scheduled to release albums this year (with Rihanna being one notable exception). The lack of a new album to promote minimizes the likelihood that a debut on a streaming platform could wind up cannibalizing a new album's digital or physical sales revenue.
Jay Z is scheduled to formally introduce the Tidal service at a press conference in New York at 5 p.m. EDT.