Beyonce's `Lemonade' Debut on Tidal Is a Major Win for Starpowerby
Reflects fragmentation and complexity of digital music space
Tidal allows album downloads, gets exclusive streaming rights
Beyoncé Knowles’s decision to release her new album “Lemonade” via subscription streaming service Tidal is the latest demonstration of superstars’ power to withhold their music and the fissures in the digital music market.
The move was a big win for Tidal, which trails larger rivals in subscribers, and the company said it would have an exclusive streaming version in perpetuity. The music service, of which Beyoncé is a part owner, has 3 million subscribers, compared to Spotify’s 30 million paying users and the 11 million of Apple Music.
The digital music landscape is becoming increasingly complex, as artists gain more control over how and where their songs get played. Myriad services have sprung up -- iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, Amazon’s digital music store -- and each is vying to be chosen by superstar musicians. Adele didn’t stream her hit album “25” on any service, and Taylor Swift removed music from Spotify in 2014.
The concept behind the Tidal platform is a business that is majority-owned by artists, offering them more control over their music. Hip hop mogul Jay-Z, who is married to Beyoncé, acquired Tidal for $56 million last year, and a number of his albums have since been removed from other streaming services.
Tidal has gained the approval of behemoths in the industry, with artist-owners including Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Madonna, and Usher, according to the company. Over the weekend, Tidal said it was offering downloads of “Lemonade” for $17.99.
“Lemonade” will be available on Apple Inc.’s iTunes from April 25, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.
Beyoncé’s decision to give Tidal exclusivity – even if it’s short-lived -- will likely boost subscription numbers. However the support the service has received from artists hasn’t come without some bumps.
Earlier this month, a proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleging that Kanye West and Tidal falsely claimed West’s latest album would only be available through the streaming service. The suit alleges that millions flocked to Tidal in February because of the album and the claim of exclusivity, inflating the service’s subscriber numbers and access to user data.
Music legend Prince, who died on Thursday, was among the musicians who limited the availability of his work, pulling songs from everywhere except Tidal. He set an example for today’s managers and artists by relentlessly campaigning for control over his music empire as the Internet era transformed the music business. In 2010, as sales across the industry fell, Prince famously proclaimed the Internet was completely “over” for any musician who wanted to get paid.