Tidal Depends on Star Artists to Gain New App Users, Struggles to Keep Up the Engagement

Still basking in the afterglow of Beyonce’s latest album, Lemonade, Tidal, the music-streaming service acquired by Beyonce’s husband Jay Z in 2015, is once again the talk of the town. Rumor has it that Apple is interested in buying the service. Apple hasn’t made any official announcements or commented on the topic. At this point it’s just Kanye West tweeting his requests, urging Apple to move with the deal. Since we are more interested in why Tidal is so desperate for a new owner than in following Kanye’s ever so amusing Twitter feed, we turned to 7Park Data’s multi-million user panel to look for answers. We checked Tidal’s app install rate and time US users spent in the app on a weekly basis from January through June 2016.

When it comes to attracting new users, nothing gets music lovers flocking to Tidal as a new album release from Rihanna, Kanye West, or Beyonce. Based on 7Park Data’s panel, Tidal app installs almost tripled right after Kanye dropped The Life of Pablo on February 14 and more than doubled following Beyonce’s album release on April 23.

We also found dramatic event-driven changes in time individual listeners spent in the app. A week after Rihanna released her Anti album (January 28), the time spent in Tidal’s mobile app reached the year’s high of 120 minutes per active user, only to drop to 34 minutes the following week.

Whether Tidal’s dependence on a few star artists to gain users is a sustainable model or not, may be up for a debate. Our time spent in app data show that the app’s sexy appeal is short-lived with new users, making the overall app engagement temperamental and the app’s ability to monetize questionable.

After taking over Tidal in 2015, Jay Z has been promoting the service as artist-owned, high fidelity music streaming with exclusive content from the star-studded co-owner list, which includes Kanye West. One of the main criticisms of the service has been Tidal’s $19.99 monthly subscription fee (HiFi option), which is much higher than the fees its competitors — Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora — charge their users.

As far as Apple’s acquisition of Tidal, this could be a win-win deal: Apple can use Tidal as an extra ammunition against its major rival, Spotify, and Tidal can have a stronger impact on the music industry under Apple’s mighty roof. But Tidal and Apple’s relationship hasn’t been symbiotic in the past; negotiations will be tough. Kanye’s tweets are not helping either.

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