Tidal, the Jay Z-backed subscription streaming music service that first announced its intention to pay struggling artists for their work by getting a bunch of millionaires up on a stage to talk about it, is maybe not doing so great after all. After a high-profile launch punctuated with swipes at rival streaming services like Pandora and Spotify for their low payouts to participating artists, Tidal’s Swedish owner Aspiro recently got rid of CEO Andy Chen and several employees in a “streamlining move.” (Specifically, they were efficiently and swiftly moved out onto the streets of Sweden.) Fellow Scandinavian Peter Tonstad, a former consultant at the Norwegian Ministry of Environment, has been brought in to replace Chen.
Tonstad has a tough path ahead of him. According to recent data from Apple, the major effect of Tidal’s attacks on Pandora and Spotify seems to have been making consumers think, “Oh yeah, I could be listening to Spotify right now.” The streaming services had been out of the iPad Top 40 downloads list since November, but returned in March, right at the peak of Tidal’s attempts to make consumers think about what unremitting streaming was doing to poor, destitute Nicki Minaj. Pandora and Spotify are currently at positions 3 and 4, respectively, on the U.S. iPhone’s revenue charts, having even managed to knock Candy Crush Saga and its horde of dopamine-addicted sugar zombies down a few spots. Meanwhile, Tidal has dropped out of iTunes’ Top 700 downloads list, a far cry from the Top 20 performance it garnered in the days after its big relaunch.
Of course, it’s possible that Tidal is flailing not because consumers aren’t interested in paying to stream high-definition music through their $10 earbuds, or have checked out on a service that offers no way to listen for free, but because they’re worried that it’s part of a global conspiracy to control human destiny from the shadows. Said worries were addressed recently in Papermag by high-profile Tidal backer, man of letters, and future Steve Jobs of The Gap, Kanye West. As part of a longer letter in which the Yeezus artist talked nitrous oxide, God, and living in China, he took a moment to address jokes that the Tidal press conference was “an Illuminati moment”:
If there was actually an Illuminati, it would be more like the energy companies. Not celebrities that gave their life to music and who are pinpointed as decoys for people who really run the world. I’m tired of people pinpointing musicians as the Illuminati. That’s ridiculous. We don’t run anything; we’re celebrities. We’re the face of brands. We have to compromise what we say in lyrics so we don’t lose money on a contract. Madonna is in her 50s and gave everything she had to go up on an award show and get choked by her cape. She’s judged for who she adopts. Fuck all of this sensationalism. We gave you our lives. We gave you our hearts. We gave you our opinions!
So, there you have it: Tidal is not the Illuminati. If it was, it would probably be more successful right now.