Jay Z this weekend tweeted an ominous and serious accusation: “There are many big companies that are spending millions on a smear campaign. We are not anti-anyone, we are pro-artist & fan. .” This would seem to indicate that he believes the broadly negative recent media coverage of his Tidal music streaming service is based on “big companies” waging an expensive media war on a small, floundering application. Is this a likely scenario? Let’s examine the timeline of the past week.

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On April 21st, BGR published a piece on Tidal’s astonishingly rapid download performance decline. The key argument was that the media message of using glamorous stars like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj while arguing for a fairer streaming revenue share for artists was glaringly discordant and consumer interest in the app had caved in a matter of days.

The story caught on, garnering 900,000 page views and generating hundreds of pieces in places like Bloomberg, New York Magazine, E Online, Daily Mail, etc. Of course, high-profile app launches with glitzy promotional campaigns sometimes trigger media backlashes even if the app ends up living to the hype. That is the risk when you make bombastic claims during your launch.

According to The New York Times, Alicia Keyes said during the Tidal launch that its goal was “to forever change the course of music history.” Jay Z called the current system of compensating artists “criminal.” These types of comments invited a lot of media coverage and articles comparing Tidal to Spotify and Pandora. The problem with making Tidal’s subscription price so much higher than its entrenched rivals is that those comparisons inevitably made established services look like a much better deal for consumers.

The end result of Tidal’s kooky marketing and premium pricing strategy was that the app had crashed out of the U.S. iPhone top 750 downloads by April 21st, when the BGR piece on its miserable download performance was published. The ensuing media brouhaha was so broad that Tidal actually rebounded to the top 400 within 48 hours… before crashing out of the top 1000 again by April 26th.

Looking at the Google News timeline of major articles on Tidal, it seems clear that they were mostly direct responses to the BGR piece on how miserably Tidal has performed on the iPhone download charts.

So this gets us to Jay Z’s claim about “big companies spending millions on smear campaigns.” How is that possible if the bulk of the past weeks negative Tidal coverage was triggered by a BGR column? Who is getting paid millions in smear money and how? I haven’t received any payoff checks from Spotify or Pandora, which is why I’m trying to set up a conference call with Tidal in order to sort out this dark and cryptic enigma.

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