By Jonathan Keane

Tidal continues on its uphill climb to gain a significant place in the music streaming wars currently led by Spotify along with Apple officially unveiling its much-rumoured music streaming service Apple Music. In the face of growing challenges, Tidal powers on nonetheless.

A slew of new features and partnerships were announced last week by Jay Z and his entourage of megastar co-owners. Now they’ve signed on Lil Wayne as a co-owner, who dropped his new single Glory on the service. Tidal also announced a partnership with Ticketmaster, brokered via Live Nation, which will see Tidal users get early access to gig and festival tickets and in the area of user experience, it launched its new Mac and Windows desktop apps and introduced a 50% discount for students.

Tidal can’t be accused of laziness. With a PR campaign led by Vania Schlogel, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, Tidal launched an offensive with its Tidal X concert streaming service and the Tidal Discovery and Rising platforms for emerging artists. However, the blemish of the celebrities’ largely-panned promotional videos has left a sour taste in the mouths of many. It featured the likes of Madonna, Kanye West, and Rihanna signing contracts, clinking glasses, and claiming to have saved music.

TIDAL for Some
Since then, Tidal has faced its own tidal wave of criticism and proclamations of its demise. Forbes called it “tone deaf” and the launch event “ridiculously obnoxious” while the service has also been accused of being more about the celebrities involved rather than the actual business itself.

Tidal has promised a “fairer” deal for artists such as payments as much as four times as high as those paid by Spotify. It all sounded well and good on paper but the latest figures show that Tidal has yet to hit a million subscribers. It did however reach 900,000 users, up from 500,000, in the first few months of Jay Z’s ownership.

More than just a Stream
The company is trying badly to differentiate itself as much as possible. It doesn’t offer a free tier like Spotify, which is something it’s very committed to. It’s quickly expanded into live streaming concerts and running promotional content for artists on Tidal Rising with a full editorial team. “We don’t consider ourselves just a music streaming company,” Schlogel told The Verge.

Through its unsigned artist platform Discovery, bands can upload their own music and potentially earn royalties. Tidal is in some ways becoming like a new breed of record label. Jay Z, ever the savvy businessman, was at one point the CEO of Def Jam Records and so would bring some pedigree there.

Rising Tide: The Competition
Spotify is even doing something similar. It recently announced a slew of new features like video and podcast in a bid to diversify its business and that may be another challenge for Tidal to overcome as it continues to face hurdles. Drake turned down a Tidal deal and has signed with Apple. Tidal has also been unable to sign Taylor Swift to a deal despite her public disputes with Spotify while rumours have circulated that Sony, a prominent Spotify partner, would pull Beyoncé’s catalogue from Tidal.

Throw in the new service from Apple and Tidal’s mountain to climb has gotten bigger. It may have some serious celebrity power but Apple has proven customers, loyal ones at that, who will fork over money for its products. If Apple can translate that to Apple Music, which also has no free tier, things will get very interesting.

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