Just few weeks after revealing the best six-month stretch in its history, Tidal is having its best month ever. Over the past three weeks, the streaming music service has surged close to the top of the music app charts for both Android and iTunes, moving past Rhapsody, Pandora and Spotify on Apple’s chart.
Tidal owes that success to a combination of tragedy and strategy. Last Thursday music icon Prince died unexpectedly, and before long fans looking for a place to stream his music discovered there was only one place to go: Tidal. The visionary artist, who was offering fans digital music subscriptions as far back as 2001, had held his songs off every other streaming service, feeling that the royalties they paid were insufficient. That meant a huge jump in the number of Tidal app downloads from Thursday to Friday, according to data compiled by App Annie.
Just three days later, Tidal’s app downloads swelled again, as fans thirsting for Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” — a surprise album release that accompanied the singer’s HBO special Saturday night — proved unable to contain themselves. By Monday, the app had hit the top of the iTunes app charts.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Tidal’s subscribers were excited about the arrival of a new Beyoncé album. All 12 of the top spots on Tidal’s weekly songs chart are from “Lemonade,” and the visual album’s two video versions, one explicit and one clean, hold the top two spots on Tidal’s top videos chart.
The remaining eight positions on the songs chart are filled out by two other blockbusters that premiered on Tidal exclusively, Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” and Rihanna’s “Anti,” and Prince’s “Purple Rain,” a song that’s only available to stream on Tidal thanks to Prince’s skepticism about streaming and the low royalties it pays.
The chart’s contents, as well as Tidal’s recent surge up the Android and iTunes app charts, suggests that the company’s strategy of offering subscribers early access to content and events may be bearing fruit. After taking nearly six months to grow Tidal’s subscriber base from 770,000 to 1 million last year, it took just six months to get to 3 million, with the huge gains likely driven by the impending releases of “The Life of Pablo” and “Anti.” Based on the gains illustrated in the above charts, it’s likely that “Lemonade” could wind up driving plenty more, too.
"Lemonade" could also wind up helping Tidal in its push to expand its footprint into other markets. Over the weekend, Tidal revealed that it was selling "Lemonade" as a standalone download globally, even in markets where its streaming service was not yet available; Tidal is currently available in 46 countries around the world.
But for all the recent momentum Tidal has shown, there is no guarantee those users will stick around. A small handful of them appear to be mad that the exclusive windows for “Pablo” and “Anti” were so short; one even filed a prospective class action lawsuit claiming that Kanye West had tricked his fans into signing up.
It may be awhile before Tidal gets to cash in on this kind of fan anticipation again. None of Tidal’s megastar owners has an album due for imminent release.
One of Tidal’s biggest competitors, however, will get to see what an exclusive release bump is like later this week, when Drake’s “Views From the 6” debuts as an Apple Music exclusive.