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Tidal user figures questioned

By | Published on Monday 23 January 2017


There was some chitter chatter on Friday about exactly how many people are actually streaming tunes via Tidal, after a Norwegian business newspaper said the firm’s official user figures were dubious. Personally, I’m not sure Tidal even exists. I have a theory that it was the name of a fictional streaming service in some Michael Crichton novel set in the future. Jay-Z then joked about how he owned that service, the rumour machine got out of control, and now everyone’s convinced it’s real. This is the age we live in.

Norwegian paper Dagens Næringsliv – which remains interested in the streaming firm that originated in Scandinavia – says that while Tidal’s last official stat on subscriber numbers was three million, one London-based label exec said that they had been told the Jay-Z led streaming set up had something closer to 850,000 paying users.

The Dagens Næringsliv report makes a number of allegations about the inner workings and financials of the Tidal business, though some have suggested that at least some of the newspaper’s sources may have axes to grind, having left the firm following Jay-Z’s high profile acquisition in 2015.

That said, Dagens Næringsliv’s sources aren’t the first in the music industry to suggest that Tidal’s previously released official figures included a lot of users still enjoying free trials in the wake of one of the company’s high profile artist exclusives, and that the number of actual paying users is considerably less than three million. A recent post by Mark Mulligan’s MIDiA Research suggested that the actual figure was more like a million.

Of course, in terms of assessing the long-term viability of Tidal, the nature of the streaming music business means that you need at least tens of millions of paying users to have any hope of going into profit, unless the record companies and music publishers radically alter the nature of their licensing deals at some point in the future. Which means a business with three million subscribers isn’t really any more viable than a business with one million.

Though the good news for Tidal is that we’re now officially in the age of ‘alternative facts’. Jay-Z should get Kanye West to have a word with his mate Donald Trump who could have his spokespeople confirm that Tidal – which is a great streaming service by the way, really great, the best – actually has a billion users, and if they all stood in a line they’d definitely reach the Washington Monument.