By David Z. Morris
June 17, 2018

Hip-hop supercouple Beyoncé and Jay-Z revealed a surprise album, Everything is Love Saturday — their first joint record that has been eagerly anticipated for years.

What wasn’t a surprise was that Everything Is Love was released exclusively on Tidal, which the two artists partly own. But despite the caliber of the latest Tidal exclusive, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new album is unlikely to turn around a business that hasn’t grown the way its high-profile owners hoped.

Since its 2015 relaunch by an alliance of some of the world’s biggest musicians, Tidal has relied heavily on video and music exclusives as a growth strategy. That has included, at various times, songs by Rihanna, albums by Kanye West, and the entire catalogs of both Jay-Z and Prince.

Yet, despite temporary bumps, all those exclusives haven’t led to much success for the platform. Tidal has rarely reported subscriber numbers, but claimed in early 2016 to have 3 million paid subscribers, compared to 30 million paid users for Spotify at around the same time. There haven’t been subscriber numbers reported since then, which may suggest there hasn’t been much if any growth. There have also been accusations that Tidal fraudulently inflated those 2016 subscriber numbers, as well as streaming numbers for some albums — both of which the company denied.

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The lesson by now seems clear, though: a limited number of exclusive releases, even from the world’s most prominent artists, can’t compete with the sort of comprehensive catalog and refined discovery features offered by Spotify (though there’s an interesting argument that Spotify should still develop its own content, ala Netflix).

Of course, listening to Everything Is Love doesn’t absolutely require paying for a Tidal subscription. There are a few samples of the nine-track album online, including on Beyonce’s social media feeds.

As GQ usefully points out, Tidal also has a store, where a digital copy of the album can be purchased outright for $9.99. And if you just want to sample the record, Tidal offers a 30-day free trial, which many listeners have made the most of.

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