Walt Hickey, FiveThirtyEight:
There is an argument in Tidal’s favor. We’ve seen with Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO and other video streaming services that exclusivity is a very good way to gain and keep subscribers. Just like there are people who subscribe to HBO just for “Game of Thrones,” there’s an argument to be made that people could subscribe to Tidal just for, say, new Rihanna releases.
Look at the people who were on stage with Jay Z on Monday: Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire, Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Usher, according to Music Business Worldwide. Do you like any one of those artists?
A major difference between Netflix, et. al. and Tidal is that the video streaming services first built up a core audience in markets nobody else had a stake in. HBO was the first premium home cable channel, while Netflix wrote the book on effortless television and movie streaming.1 It was only after building a substantial subscriber base that these companies created original, exclusive programming.
Tidal isn’t really breaking any new ground with their streaming music service, and plenty of music stores had exclusive content during the iTunes Store’s heyday. None of these alternative stores did very well; most didn’t even survive.
Besides, the music industry seems to have largely given up the fight against file sharing. Record labels will still send automated takedown requests to the bigger sites and distributors, but if you can’t still find free music on the web, I don’t know what to tell you. For how long will a track “exclusive” to Tidal remain that way? My bet is somewhere between one week before the track even debuts, to ten minutes after it’s live.
I’m not writing it off entirely, but I haven’t heard a convincing argument as to why Tidal will garner a respectable market share alongside the already-dominating Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, Beats, Xbox Music, and iTunes Radio services, let alone Apple’s upcoming streaming service.
After they re-wrote the book on DVD distribution, that is. ↩︎