On May 16, Jay Z launched his 10th studio album, American Gangster, at an exclusive performance for people who subscribe to Tidal, his subscription-only music streaming service. Tidal is his new business venture that has received a lot of criticism in terms of design, effectiveness, and viability. The celebrity has famously bragged in face of such criticism: “I’m a business, man.”
Jay Z unveiled Tidal at a press conference in late March, flanked by 15 of the biggest acts in the music business, including his wife, Beyoncé. Madonna was also present, as well as Alicia Keys, who misquoted Nietzsche when she spoke enthusiastically about Tidal’s utopian vision for the future of music in the computer age. Critics complained that Jay Z did not clearly outline what the service offered in terms of technology, access to quality music content, or any other reasons for potential users to buy a subscription.
Ben Gibbard, lead singer of the indie rock group Death Cab for Cutie, made the comment: “They totally blew it by bringing out a bunch of millionaires and billionaires and propping them up onstage and then having them all complain about not being paid.” As of late May, Tidal was ranked unimpressively at Number 9 on the iTunes list of music apps, dragging just behind an app called Slacker Radio.
At a recent performance in New York City, Jay Z freestyled about his failing business venture: “So I’m the bad guy now, I hear, because I won’t go with the flow?” He threw around generous insults about competitors in the online music streaming industry, and alluded to potential financial sponsorships from both Apple and Google (both companies have declined to comment). He also drew parallels between his situation with Tidal and the police killings of young black men such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
This is not the first time Jay Z’s songs have featured a loud mix of narcissism and paranoia. The fact is that until now, he has experienced an almost unbroken record of success. He rose from poverty in Brooklyn public housing projects to become one of the world’s most successful musical entertainers. Now he has announced his aims to become a successful businessman. So far, Tidal has been performing below the expectations of his advisors.
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