How Much Longer Can Jay Z’s Tidal Hang On? [UPDATE: Sprint Purchases a Third of the Company]

When it comes to music streaming, Spotify indisputably the big gorilla, boasting somewhere around 43 million paid subscribers. At last count, Apple Music, its next biggest competitor has just shy of 21 million. Everyone beyond that is firmly in the category of also-ran.

And at the bottom–or at least within touching distance–is Tidal, the artist-first service owned by Jay Z. If the whispers coming out of the music industry are correct, Tidal might–might–have 1 million subscribers. Some suggest that the actual number may be half that.

Running a streaming music service is hideously expensive. How long can Tidal hold out? Music Business Worldwide takes a look.

The suspicion that something doesn’t quite add up at TIDAL has nagged us for a while.

In March last year, Jay Z’s company claimed that Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo – a six-week exclusive on the platform – had been streamed 250m times in just 10 days.

In the same announcement, TIDAL claimed its platform had surpassed 3m subscribers.

This all sounded jolly impressive… until you did the maths.

To sustain these numbers, TIDAL’s 3m subs would have had to have listened to TLOP 83.3 times each in the period.

That’s every single person, more than eight times, every single day.

Even Kanye super-fans have to break for lunch.

Similar suspicions were invited by the success of Beyonce’s Lemonade a couple of months later: exclusively released on TIDAL in May, the service claimed that the release drummed up 1.2m extra subs within a week.

Those extra subs, plus the already-announced 3m subscribers, went the logic, surely meant TIDAL was now boasting more than 4m paying subscribers.

Little over a year since Jay Z’s Project Panther Bidco acquired the company from former owners Aspiro, that didn’t sound half bad.

The first pin in this – may we? – FAKE NEWS recently arrived with global year-end streaming market figures from respected analyst Mark Mulligan of Midia Research.

As previously reported, Midia estimates that Spotify ended 2016 with 43m paying subscribers worldwide, while Apple Music secured 20.9m.

As for TIDAL? 1.0m.

Keep reading.

UPDATE: On Monday morning, Sprint announced that it was purchasing a one-third stake in the company. From Billboard:

Sprint has acquired a 33 percent stake inJay Z‘s streaming service Tidal, the two companies announced today (Jan. 23). A source familiar with the matter tellsBillboard that the purchase was for $200 million and that Jay and each of the company’s two dozen artist-owners will remain part owners.

As part of the deal, Tidal will become available to Sprint’s 45 million retail customers, while the companies will partner for exclusives from its artists, according to a press release. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure joins Tidal’s board of directors.

The full story here. Once you’re done with that, here is some deeper analysis of the situation.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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