Dear Jay Z,
First off, congratulations on the most talked about launch of a music service in years. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity. If indeed you have finally opened the door to the discussion of what people do want from music on the internet, I applaud you and I have the greatest respect for everyone who is part of it.
I'm saying this as someone who fights for my artists rights every day but is also the mother of a 15 year old music addict so I see both sides and I applaud and need...both sides.
Music is free. It's the bastard child of the internet that no one can control and make behave in a manner they want it to, and yet it remains the most consumed product online except maybe porn. The sooner everyone gets their head around music being free the better. People pay for how they want it delivered. The environment and the content. Equating the value of the subscription and the hassle of entering the credit card number in and hoping it syncs to all their longterm devices to what you get on the other side is the consumer's decision. Is the user experience good, is the content there they want and is it worth the monthly cost and the setup time. That's what they care about. No one, and I do mean no one, upgrades to Spotify Premium hoping that Taylor Swift gets paid. The decision is a consumer one, and the content created by the music business is one aspect, not the whole aspect, of the commitment. Everyone has to applaud Apple and Spotify for the way they delivered to our consumers and long may they reign.
So what happens when stars like you and Kanye West amongst others, two of the biggest cultural icons of our generation start a site? You two guys alone have taken the delivery of three-dimensional music to another level. We need only read your lyrics to hear how you diversify and innovate. Working in film, brands, business... stacking your millions. And we love you for it. You are cultural leaders, so why did you not go to the people who actually equally drive the content culture: the consumers.
I remember Kanye West announcing Donda, a creative agency to fuel the future, that would do everything from designing hotels and toothbrushes to new stores. Innovation on another level. I remember wanting to send my CV in immediately. Who doesn't work to work with Kanye West? A privilege I have enjoyed and one I will remember forever. Genius.
So here is my solution for you, Jay Z.
First of all, the tweets you posted about the global value of YouTube, Spotify, etc. versus Tidal don't wash with me. Are you honestly saying the end game wasn't to blow Tidal up to be as valuable if not more so? If you weren't going to blow it up and attract billions of users, why is it a good place for the artist? You've told us for years about the entrepreneur you are...come on....
So why don't you go into business with the people you want to engage with. For $9.99 a month, instead of taking why don't you give and take at the same time? Make kids partners in Tidal with you. Make it a cooperative. If you subscribe, you buy in. You go into business with Jay Z and Kanye West and all those other fine artists. What kid doesn't want to say that?
Then look at the content you are putting up there. I don't give a shit if your new album will be up there—and I have (and have paid for) all your albums. I can get it for $9.99 on iTunes, not spend $120 a year on Tidal. I don't care about a one off concert, or the improved sound quality that my headphones probably can't deliver to me anyway.
Why don't you grab this and flip it on it's head and apply your own business model to Tidal.
Make kids shareholders with you and watch them grow it. Make them entrepreneurs. Make them... you.
Give kids a platform which rewards them also for time spent. Gathering points for consuming, sharing, promoting and engaging, they can cash-in to either higher member levels or take it one step further and partner with retail. Curate the music across like-minded brand stores: Nasty Gal, Reformation, Adidas, TopShop, Nike... most of which have deals in place with at least someone on that panel and curate music while shopping and cash discounts at the register for your Tidal points. Take a percentage from those retailers for driving traffic to those sites.
Have the ability for brands to access the subscribers and ask if they can engage with them. Tidal points are gathered by engaging with brands the kids like and the brands get direct to those who like them. These are highly-targeted ads for brands struggling to be seen in a dying print world, with no TV ads available on the best channels like Netflix and HBO (and who clicks pre-roll?).
Who would not have liked to get a higher place up the waiting list for a pair of Yeezys? I would like to have first access to the new Daft Punk movie. I would like to get points I can cash in for vouchers on Reformation. And while I travel around the internet....I remain under the Tidal umbrella.
Allow kids to socially curate the site like the perfect cable channel. Let them tell you what else they want pulled in to be able to view under the umbrella. Perhaps Tidal is indeed the new cable channel, perfectly curated by kids selecting from a menu what they want pulled in to their all-encompassing site, using one credit card, one subscription model which may rise if they use multiple services, and pulling in partners with millions of followers. Why should Tidal not have channels where the content owners sit at the top of the chain not the bottom... but doing it in a way so the consumer doesn't notice. All they see is an incredible site where they have clicked they also want to view and see offers from certain stores, music, videos sites, art, news sites, online TV channels and pull in their social feeds into one place allowing instant sharing and owning their time on socials. Suddenly, you have users with Tidal on if they want to while checking their social platforms or shopping. And we all know if you did cable now, Time Warner Cable would bite your hand off to create a new cable format which works.
What if Tidal became that umbrella with my credit card information and, as such, became the new PayPal of all the sites I want to go to, and I get rich from being part of it.
Allow a free section for unsigned bands. Those who have the rights to their own music can decide if they want to get paid, correct? So enable them to do so and be able to upload and profile themselves for free. Break new music. Curate the platform between those panel of owners and between Tidal ambassadors who have built up large playlist followings to break artists. Imagine concepts where if you upload a band as an established Tidal playlister, you can say you broke them... and the first who invest time to listen and share, gain extra revenue streams as those bands move into the paid sector of Tidal.
Incorporate fashion, trends, tutorials and icons from other areas kids associate with music.
Imagine millions of kids feeling that they are getting it all under one roof, and they own that roof. Watching their stock rise as they refer friends to the site, as they promote links, as they engage, as they share, as Tidal grows under the watchful eye of their heroes. Imagine if you actually made kids rich... what a thrill, no? You tell them on every album that getting rich is the dream come true. Imagine the shareholders conferences! Imagine harnessing the passion of those you inspire with your music and controlling the biggest promotions team in the world.
Have a way for kids to post ideas and needs in forums. As people share their agreement for wanting that service or item, let it trend on Tidal and then Tidal teams are tasked to go get it.
No one is undermining music and its importance. Without the music there is nothing... and music has owned my life so I know its importance, but constantly ignoring the consumer and not putting the power in their hands is insane and when global music leaders like you come out and do it, it feels like we all got kicked in the face.
If you take the consumer as seriously as the music, and we all hope you do, and you get the consumer paid for their time, their engagement but also empower them, make them feel part of something, make them think... then you can have the discussion with them about free music versus paid, because they are part of it. Not by saying you're paying 75% of royalties to artists, because in doing so you forget to mention 99.99% of the world's population and what they get out of it... because the odd exclusive video is not going to fly.
Come on, Jay Z... don't forget where you came from. The level of innovation and balls on that panel you created is next level. Own people's time online, allow it to makes those who spend the time money, allow it to grow ideas, and in doing so allow it to fund creativity in music and beyond. Surely you want to be in business with the next generation, not selling to them and the tech market. The tech market will always be there to write the check to anyone who has the crowd... and the crowd needs to have a vested interest or why would they care?
Don't say you're making a stand. Making a stand either means for something or against something. So it's either for artists to be paid or against those who listen for free. And the revelation there is it takes both sides to settle the debate, so use both sides to achieve it.
Give Tidal to the people and lead the biggest company in the world. We know you can do it. It's time for a bigger change than the frequency of the sound. It's Tidal. Make waves.