Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal has had a pretty clear strategy for getting new subscribers.
First, you get high-profile artists to agree to give Tidal an exclusive window for their new album. Then you use that to sign up new users and then hope they don’t cancel when the month is up.
Tidal employed this strategy with three high-profile artists in 2016: Rihanna, Kanye West, and Beyonce. All three made an enormous impact on new downloads for Tidal. You can see just how big that impact was in US data from SurveyMonkey Intelligence, the app analytics platform:
One of the ways Tidal was able to wrangle these new downloads was by offering a standard one-month free trial. There is no free tier of Tidal, which costs $9.99 per month or $19.99 (depending on your plans).
The plan for many people I’ve talked to was to sign up for the free trial, listen to the album, and then cancel once it became available on other streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music. But it seems like a lot of those free users forgot to cancel.
Here is a chart of Tidal’s estimated US revenue per-day from its app, according to SurveyMonkey Intelligence:
As you can see, there are enormous spikes one month after the release of both the Kanye and Beyonce albums. Now, you could argue that these are just customers sticking around because they liked the service once they tried it out (which is the crux of Tidal’s plan).
But take a close look at the months following the Kanye release. Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” hit Tidal on February 14, and while you have a huge spike a month after that, the spike two months after is much lower (and three months even lower than that). This suggests these people weren’t loyal Tidal converts, but likely just forgot to cancel.
In fact, Tidal’s per-day estimated revenue doesn’t pick up again until the big bump around a month after Beyonce’s album came out. And the pattern after Beyonce looks similar.
This isn’t good news for Tidal. While it’s been clear for a while that Tidal’s exclusives strategy only gave very temporary results in terms of downloads, the hope for supporters of the company was that once those new users discovered the service, they would stay. This suggests that might not be the case.
In March, Tidal announced that it had over 3 million paid subscribers, versus Spotify’s 30 million paid (March), and Apple Music’s 13 million (April).
As a note: some people had their free trials extended after the Kanye release, but this only applied to a subset of people who had actually paid to download the album, through Tidal, before Kanye pulled it. The extension allowed them to continue to listen to the album while they waited for the final download version (6 weeks after the initial release).
Tidal declined to comment.
If you want to see SurveyMonkey Intelligence’s methodology, head here.