Takeaways for Every Entrepreneur from Tidal’s Catastrophic Launch

Tidal logo.

When rapper-turned-entrepreneur Jay-Z purchased music streaming service Tidal in January, he promised consumers “a revolutionary merging of music, technology, and management.” The service promised high-fidelity music quality, access to exclusive content, and now most infamously, higher payouts to the musicians featured on the service compared to competitors like Spotify and Pandora.
As public popularity and momentum built for the service, Jay-Z staged an elaborate launch event, featuring numerous high-profile artists acting as equity-sharing spokespeople for the company. Then things went horribly wrong.

The event resulted in intense public backlash stemming from Tidal’s apparent assertion that the already-wealthy artists featured at the debut event deserved even more money. What was supposed to be a premium service with exclusive content was now being publicly written-off by its target audience.

Dismal post-launch app downloads and subscription purchases soon followed. Tidal fired its CEO and began a public attack campaign against its competitors. Jay-Z himself chimed in with a sizable Twitter rant that spread across social media and caused an even more extreme public backlash. The attacks, in fact, actually managed to increase public awareness of Spotify and Pandora, who saw their popularity surge in the wake of Tidal’s failed launch.

Luckily for the rest of us, we can learn from Jay Z’s mistakes. (Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll bounce back.) Failure is just opportunity in disguise, after all. Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the Tidal debacle:

Know Your Audience
In hindsight, it seems obvious. While paying artists fairly for their work is important, the average music consumer could not care less if Tidal gives artists a bigger cut of the profits. Do your research, find out what message resonates with your audience, and cater to your niche. If you don’t know your market and their viewpoint intimately, you’re not ready to effectively communicate with them. Which brings us to our second takeaway…

Be Unique, But Be Relevant
Welcome to “Marketing 101.” You’ve got to find your unique selling point, but just as importantly, you’ve got to find the right selling point. Tidal gave subscribers access to tons of exclusive content and higher audio quality, but somehow chose to focus on other unique points that just weren’t relevant. It doesn’t matter how unique you are if no one cares.

Control Your Message and Your Team
In the age of social media, it is easier than ever for a message to become twisted, flipped, and distorted on its way to your audience. When you enter a partner, celebrity, or spokesperson into the equation, things become even more tricky. Be clear, be confident, and be on the same page as everyone on your team. Otherwise, things could get very bad very quickly.

Build Long-term Brand Relationships
Sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice instant gratification. If you want long-term success, you’ve got to build long-term consumer relationships. When your audience buys into your brand on a personal level, you need to nurture that trust and build upon it. Taking your brand relationships for granted is giving your competitors a leg up. (Spotify and Pandora say hi!)

Written by Jeff Moore

Jeff Moore is an award-winning coach, communicator and producer who has helped thousands of musicians reach and exceed their creative and professional goals. His credits include work with GRAMMY winners, Billboard chart-toppers, and RIAA certified platinum artists.

He received his BA and MS from Boston University and also studied Music Production and Advanced Improvisation at Berklee. Jeff has helped clients earn coverage in countless international media outlets and was a “Top 40 Under Forty” selection for his accomplishments as a young entrepreneur.

Jeff has always had a great love for film and TV, so he's happy to have the opportunity to share his thoughts!

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