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The same strategy that helped make Jay-Z’s Tidal a disaster is making Apple look brilliant

Zach Epstein
April 24th, 2015 at 10:40 AM
Tidal Music Streaming

Look at Beyonce. Just look at her. All beautiful and bright and laid back and… rich. Sitting on her private jet, casually glancing out the window with peacock feathers hanging from her bandana and hair brooch that is just too fashionable to bear. But… wait… what’s that on her wrist? Is that… an Apple Watch?

You know it is.

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Using celebrities to promote products isn’t exactly a novel concept. Celebrity endorsements have existed since the dawn of celebrity. But there’s something to be said for the way Apple is handling Apple Watch promotion.

I mean, just look at Beyonce.

Having celebrities speak at launch events or appear in commercials is nice, but it’s not fooling anyone. When Matthew McConaughey waxes poetic while driving around in a Lincoln, we all know that he’s being paid to wax poetic and drive around in a Lincoln. Then the director yells “cut” and Matthew gets driven to lunch in the back of an S Class or some other luxury car.

But look at Beyonce. She’s not driving around in a Lincoln. She’s not splashing some water on her face in slow motion in a soap commercial. She’s just living her life, chilling on a private jet, rocking a gorgeous gold Apple Watch.

And… hold on a minute… you can have an Apple Watch just like Beyonce’s! Just think about how cool you’ll look!

The sad irony is that Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z just launched a disaster of a music service called Tidal that is employing a very similar strategy, and it’s having the exact opposite impact.

Let’s stop to consider why that is, because it really couldn’t be simpler.

Apple gave Beyonce a gold watch and told her to show it off. The message to consumers is clear: Wear an Apple Watch, be like Beyonce.

Tidal, on the other hand, is sending a completely different message. Jay-Z & Co. enlisted the help of a number of different celebrities to promote Tidal. They tweeted about it, they spoke about it, they encouraged fans to get on board.

What is Tidal’s pitch? Pay more money for a higher-quality streaming music service, and the artists will make more money. After all, hard-working musicians created these songs and they shouldn’t have to live on the peanuts they make from services like Spotify and Pandora.

Think of the artists! Won’t somebody think of the artists?!

It’s actually a great concept that would absolutely resonate with many music lovers. But look at who Tidal has promoting this service: Jay-Z, Rihanna, Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Kanye (well, maybe not Kanye). Are you kidding me?

You know who wants to see artists make more money for their music? Old people with stable jobs who truly appreciate the craft. Avid indie music fans who go out every weekend in search of new bands. People who are aspiring musicians themselves.

You know who could not possibly care any less whether or not artists make more money for their music? People who listen to Jay-Z, Rihanna, Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Kanye.

Rihanna’s fans, by and large, are young people who stream her music for free on YouTube, SoundCloud or another similar service. And guess what… she’s worth how much? $125 million? $140 million?

Rihanna and Beyonce fans don’t want Rihanna and Beyonce to make more money. Rihanna and Beyonce fans want to be like Rihanna and Beyonce.

They want that watch.

It amazes me all over again every time I think about how badly Jay-Z, a brilliant businessman — sorry, a brilliant business, man — botched this launch. Tidal is a fantastic concept that looks doomed to fail. There’s no free tier, there’s no clear support from musicians who actually need to make more money from streaming services, there are no unique features that people actually care about, and there is practically no one on Earth who cares whether Rihanna makes 6¢ or 12¢ per hundred streams.

But, I mean, just look at Beyonce.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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