In the words of conscious rap ensemble Public Enemy, don’t believe the hype. Long have people tried to claim that any column inches are good column inches, providing they namecheck your brand. (Who hasn’t heard the much appropriated phrase that may have emanated form the famous PR stunts Barnum, imploring that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’)? But, as another hip hop icon is currently proving, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The music industry is in a mess. That’s no news. Rising event tickets are stopping low earners from attending major gigs, a symptom of the fact very few artists are earning any money from recording songs. As such, when Jay Z launched his new streaming platform, Tidal, with the promise of giving musicians a fairer deal than Spotify et al, you would have expected a warm reception. A quick Google search reveals reveals the reality has been anything but.
Originally free to join, Tidal, the business venture in question, quickly secured some 500,000 members keen to listen to tunes sans payment. Since then it has begun charging for full accounts, and is failing to attract anything like the numbers needed to support the endeavour financially. Even if Jay Z has a bank balance larger than that of many small states.
A key problem has been the overall approach. Whilst here at Smoking Gun PR at least half of our staff remember when CDs were first mass marketed, and therefore still appreciate the fact that music should probably be paid for, using some of the wealthiest artists in the world to promote Tidal- from Nicki Minaj and Beyonce to Calvin Harris and Chris Martin- sends out a bad message. Do we really need to sympathise with multi-millionaires because they don’t rake as much as they could?
Take a look at this video, which is just one item that evidences the resulting backlash of criticism… also see the hashtags #MoneyForAll and #enTIDALment.
Warning: The following video contains language some may find offensive… if you’re watching at work then we’d probably suggest headphones.
As I said before, Jay Z’s pockets are bigger than most people’s, so for the time being he can probably foot the bill. Even if two weeks after hitting the Top 20 download chart Tidal plummeted out of the Top 700. But this can’t go on indefinitely, not least when the headlines surrounding the platform are so negative Jay Z accused the press of a smear campaign on behalf of rivals Pandora and Spotify- apps that last week were at No.3 and No.4 in the U.S. download chart.
So what can we learn from this, other than not to ask people to feel sorry for the super rich during an era of austerity? Well, for one thing the fact that there most definitely is such a thing as bad publicity, when that bad publicity is focused on the fact that an app, or any product, is failing. In contrast, Tidal’s market position- the ‘fairer’ choice when compared to its rivals- has only served to draw attention to those rivals, which is tantamount to commercial suicide when you’re the newbie fighting cash and user-rich competitors with well-established reputations.