There’s a line from the movie Fight Club that has always stuck with me when I’m trying to define that universal constant that allows us, humans, to sleep at night in the midst of an answerless universe.
It's just, when you buy furniture, you tell yourself, that's it. That's the last sofa I'm gonna need. Whatever else happens, I've got that sofa problem handled.
There’s a subtle depth to that statement, at least in my weed-soaked brain. The sofa is representative of those cosmic truths that give us a foothold of comfort, of those things you never have to worry about changing.
That’s how I felt about TIDAL’s success, until today.
Since it’s inception, TIDAL has been a blueprint for a thriving newcomer in a field already dominated by multiple heavy-hitters. The consistency in management, the immediate acclaim, the support from struggling artists looking to change the status quo—it seemed like a dream.
If you're sensing some sarcasm here, it's because I'm laying it on pretty thick. As much as I personally enjoy Jay Z’s alternative to Apple Music and Spotify, the saga of TIDAL has pretty much been a shit-show since jump street.
While Hov and his musical chairs of a team at TIDAL have been trying everything under the sun to back their subscription number flaunting—listed as high as three million in March of last year—a new report by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv says TIDAL has inflated its subscription numbers heavily over the past two years, even after filing a lawsuit (that, surprise, never materialized) against the previous owners for the exact same thing.
The publication also claims that TIDAL reported currently having 1.1 million subscribers to record labels in October, a hefty backpedal from Jay’s claims of 3 million in March, and who knows how close that number is to the truth. It's also not the first time TIDAL's reported numbers struck us as fishy, either. Last year, we reported on TIDAL's unbelievable claims about the instant streaming success of Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.
Personally, I've loved my experience with TIDAL. I subscribed early on because I knew there would be a heavy hip-hop lean to the service’s offerings, and I haven’t had a single problem with the platform or its app since I joined.
I’m not, however, surprised by TIDAL’s lack of success given their clumsy marketing, which has become increasingly niche-driven, as perfectly exemplified by their recent announcement of the master quality streaming that very few people will likely care about or use.
It would be dope if Jay just owned up to TIDAL’s role as a fledgling being allowed to sit next to giants; as a (relatively) mom & pop operation in comparison to Spotify and Apple Music’s sprawling streamscape. The audiophile moves would make sense, and the humility might actually drive some real support for the app from audio purists and hip-hop heads like myself who love the ease of finding every new release on Fridays.
Instead, Jay and company have tried to frame TIDAL as something it's so far proved it can’t be—a legitimate competitor to the already existing streaming giants, leaving them trapped between lanes of both perception and operation.
I genuinely hope TIDAL succeeds, if only for the selfish reason of not wanting to be forced to sullenly crawl back to a sneering Apple Music saying, “I knew you’d be back.” But with reports like these dotting the entirety of TIDAL’s existence, the future is looking bleak.