Tidal’s exclusive album strategy has worked yet again, with Beyoncé’s
“Lemonade” catapulting the app over 150 spots in the iOS download charts, landing it at the No. 2 slot.
Exclusives have been the backbone of Tidal, Jay Z’s Spotify competitor, over the last few months. Beginning in January, the service has seen three high-profile exclusive releases: Rihanna, Kanye West, and now Beyoncé (all for varying lengths of time). The three artists also own an undisclosed stake in the company.
All three releases have done their job in the short term, shooting the app up the charts. Tidal peaked at No. 16 on the US iOS charts after Rihanna, No. 1 after Kanye, and No. 2 after Beyoncé. In between, it has lagged, sometimes languishing at spots below No. 600 (Prince’s death also pushed the app up the charts, though not to the same extent).
What remains to be seen is whether Tidal can convert these new users, many of whom are taking advantage of the free trial, into paying customers. Last month, Tidal announced that it had reached 3 million paid subscribers, compared to Apple Music at 11 million and Spotify at 30 million.
But the Beyoncé download bump proves there are still potential customers that have not already been brought into Tidal’s orbit, even after Rihanna and Kanye.
To “exclusive” or not to “exclusive”
Exclusive windows have become a source of controversy in the music streaming industry.
Spotify, one of Tidal’s main competitors, has come out vehemently opposed to exclusive album releases.
“We’re not really in the business of paying for exclusives, because we think they’re bad for artists and they’re bad for fans,” Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s head of communications
told The Verge in February. “Artists want as many fans as possible to hear their music, and fans want to be able to hear whatever they’re excited about or interested in — exclusives get in the way of that for both sides. Of course, we understand that short promotional exclusives are common and we don’t have an absolute policy against them, but we definitely think the best practice for everybody is wide release.”
A Kanye “fan” is also suing the rapper for making his album widely available on other services after saying it would only be on Tidal in perpetuity.
Beyoncé, for her part, seems to have learned at least one lesson from Kanye’s total Tidal exclusivity (for a few weeks). She made her album available to purchase on iTunes just 24 hours after its release, perhaps to stem the flow of piracy that came with Kanye’s new album.”The Life of Pablo” saw 500,000 illegal downloads on its first day alone, according to TorrentFreak.