Is Jay Z Taking The Pro-Black Approach To Ensure #Tidal’s Success?

| May 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Jay-Z has been under a lot of pressure ever since Tidal launched. Tidal’s mission is for the artists to make the money they deserve from the streaming of their records and at the same time, have a direct-to-consumer relationship thus cutting out the middle man (record companies). Well the music streaming service which promised customers quality sound, for a modest $19.99 a month, has not been doing very well. It is still in the early stages but the time to start critiquing Tidal’s struggles are upon us.

We know Tidal is not working, but why? Jay at his recent B-sides concert had a freestyle where he fired back at detractors and we got a glimpse into what he sees as Tidal’s hindrance.

“You know I came in this game independent, right?/ Tidal, my own lane, same difference /Oh ni**as is skeptical about they own s–t/ You bought nine iPhones and Steve Jobs is rich/ Phil Knight worth trillions you still bought those kicks /Spotify is nine billion and they ain’t say s–t! /‘Lucy you got some ‘splaining to do’/ The only one they hating on look the same as you… /That’s cool /I know they trying to bamboozle you /Spending millions on media trying to confuse you /I had to talk to myself/ ‘Hov you used to it’/ It’s politics as usual”

In that response he is absolutely right. Part of the Tidal backlash does fall under the adage that, ‘the white man’s ice is colder’. The same product or profession presented by a person of color is looked at as inferior. There is also a disconnect from the average Black person in this country to Jay-Z. It has been well over a decade that we could honestly say we relate to him. As he began making his millions upon millions and began rapping about art and button ups, there is a percentage of Blacks that look at him as someone else or something else now.

For whatever reason people tend to think money can transcend race, as if class and racism are one in the same, and once you are rich you are now have ascended. The Black consumer really dictates what is hip in America and are also the most oppressed at it. With reports that Jay and Beyonce’ wired money to bail out Baltimore protesters is something, if true, should not have been a surprise. The fact is Blacks have been viewing Jay for a while now as this elitist. That freestyle at the B-Sides show is the most connected I think the average Black person has felt with Jay-Z in almost a decade.

The money that he may be spending to help the cause is great, but being vocal could do so much more for the cause and the Black consumer that Jay-Z is pining for knows that. Even if he wants to continue being a more financial support to protests, he could earmark some of Tidal proceeds go to a cause that really would help bring awareness to social issues like the mass incarceration of Black Americans.   I think we are coming to a point where the Black community is realizing that companies that do not support their interest are not worthy of their dollars.

[Tweet “Is Jay Z down for the cause or just because? #Tidal”]

But Jay is mistaken to believe that him being Black is the sole reason Tidal is not what he and others expected it to be.

The music streaming service is becoming overcrowded with companies like: Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Soundcloud and soon to be joined by Beats Music. So ask yourself this question. If you are going to provide a subscription based service to oppose a free service, and the content is generally the same, why pay?

That is why the Hi-fi subscription should have been valued for $9.99, because now those same people who pay for Spotify will leave them for Tidal since you are offering the better product at the same price. According to, Spotify has 60 million users and “only” 15 million are even paying. There was no real plan to swing that pendulum to Tidal’s side other than having a press conference featuring a bunch of rich celebrities asking you to give them more money. To not offer a free membership, the amount of exclusive content Tidal would need is almost absurd and now it has not been.

alicia keys and swizz beatz 2

Swizz Beatz with wife & Tidal Investor Alicia Keys

The way the average consumer values music today is also no longer the same. Once the 2000’s rolled around,  MP3s and downloading software like Limewire and Napster killed how we priced music. We were getting any song and album we wanted for free! The next advancement in music consumption was streaming. Now we have almost unlimited content to choose from as opposed to downloading it and storing it on a computer or phone. The movement to streaming was great for the consumer but the artist were starting to lose out. This is where Tidal was going to make its name. However, Tidal’s plan to change this model was guaranteed to fail as they were hustling backwards. They want you to pay for exclusive content that included Beyonce’ singing while playing the piano. Impressive but is that really worth your 10 to 20 dollars a month? Probably not. Just dropping music videos exclusively is not going to be enough to get people to sign on at the end of the day.

Tidal may be figuring it out now nonetheless. In what others are calling a desperation move, Tidal provides exclusive concerts and have been giving away tickets to subscribers. When you add the value of a concert to $9.99 or even $19.99, suddenly the subscription price is not so bad. Music prices have been cheapened so much due to the rise of the internet, that a generation is becoming spoiled and they are going to need more than just music. That spoiled generation is who Tidal needs to be successful and they are not going to subscribe just because of who owns it. Unless, the owners of Spotify go Donald Sterling on us, we have no reason to just leave and pay for Tidal. Black businesses need to be supported but it also needs to be an efficient business at the end of the day. Do not rap about systematic racism when you need us on your side, do it because you really care about making a difference in the Black community.

Photo Credit: Jason Merritt Getty Image

Photo Credit: Jason Merritt
Getty Image

So when Hov begins rapping about Black ownership and support, he has to make sure the product comes correct first. We want Tidal to be successful, it would be a major move. We support our people, but we will also call them on any and all BS. Jay-Z ranting about Nike and Apple is not the point, we are not going to just stop buying sneakers and iPhones because of that. Tidal is an ambitious idea and it can work, if would Jay focus on Tidal and not everyone else. It appears he feels almost entitled to Black support, and no one is ever entitled to that. Urban support is important, that point can not be beaten across anymore. Yet, do not feed us hamburger helper like it is steak. When Tidal gets their act together we will come but not because you simply want us to. This is one relationship Hov cannot hustle. It is going to have to be mutually beneficial and that may even require a price drop on the Tidal service.

No one is just sitting at home praying Jay-Z and company fail. But it is simple economics of supply and demand. Music now comes in excess and the supply far outweighs the demand. Jay being the business person he is should know this and hopefully he is figuring out how to make us want Tidal.

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