Music streaming is proving to be an extremely difficult business. Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music have all carved a space for themselves, but many others haven’t been as successful. Tidal, the high-fidelity audio streaming service Jay Z bought in March, is officially floundering.
In the past few months, Tidal has suffered multiple leadership changes, tepid consumer interest, and heaps of criticism from inside and outside the music industry. Now, in a statement to the New York Times, another top Tidal executive has confirmed her resignation—bringing the number of high-profile leaders who’ve left the company in recent months to three.
Here’s how the company’s (perhaps soon-to-be short-lived) history has played out so far:
Jay Z (or Shawn Carter) buys Tidal, a relatively obscure Scandinavian music streaming company, for around $55 million. He signs up high-profile performers—including his wife Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Madonna—and vows that the service’s high-fidelity audio and artist-friendly business model will transform the streaming industry. Media outlets, music critics, and record company executives immediately predict Tidal’s demise.
The service plummets in app store rankings. Jay Z—who’d been personally calling customers to thank them for signing up for Tidal—unleashes a defensive rant on Twitter, saying the company is “doing just fine.” Andy Chen, CEO of Tidal’s parent company, stepped down.
May, June, July 2015
Chen’s interim replacement, Peter Tonstad, resigns after two months in the job. The company has yet to name a replacement. Vania Schlogel, a private equity executive who represented Tidal in public as its chief investment officer, leaves as well. (She confirmed her resignation to the New York Times on Nov. 13. A company spokesman told the Times: “As the company has grown, there has been less of a need from a financial investment standpoint.”)
As competitors like Apple Music edge their way into streaming, Tidal drifts to the background. A Billboard survey of more than 50 music executives finds that more than two-thirds—71%, to be exact—expect that Tidal will cave in “one year or less.” Only 12% say they believe the service is here to stay.
September, October 2015
Some optimistic news: Tidal hits 1 million subscribers and also throws a highly visible charity concert in New York that raises $1.5 million for charity.
But the music streaming industry is getting increasingly crowded with Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music taking up much of the room, along with smaller companies and side products offered by Amazon and Google. This past week, YouTube—the world’s biggest music service—debuted its own music-centric app.
If Tidal is to be successful, it has to convince music-lovers that its service is the best option out of all the others—a high aspiration for a company that’s fallen out of the spotlight and can’t seem to keep its management in place.
Tidal did not immediately respond to Quartz’s request for comment.