Beyoncé and Jay-Z caught fans by surprise over the weekend when they released their joint album, Everything Is Love, without any notice.
The nine-track release was initially described as exclusive to Tidal, Jay-Z’s music streaming platform. But on Monday morning, the album suddenly appeared on all the other major streaming services, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, and Spotify Premium.
So why the sudden change? Marketing, according to veteran music journalist Billy Johnson Jr., who recently launched Los Angeles-based digital marketing firm, Media & Repertoire.
“It’s a smart move,” Johnson said.
“You can’t get any more strategic-minded than Beyoncé and Jay-Z,” he explained. “The fact that they would have this lead-up by releasing images [on social media], and then they released a surprise album on Tidal in the midst of them being on tour. It’s just brilliant marketing.”
He may be onto something, because in a matter of hours, Everything Is Love shot to the top of the iTunes charts.
But according to streaming expert and managing partner at MusicWatch, Russ Crupnick, the couple’s decision to spread the album around is probably more about reaching a bigger audience, which in turn leads to higher sales.
“You’re not going to get any visibility or reach on Tidal,” Crupnick said. “You couldn’t keep it there for very long or nobody would hear it.”
MusicWatch does research and industry analysis for the music and entertainment industries. In February, the company conducted a study and found Tidal had about a million subscribers in the U.S., and about two million in other countries. Crupnick equated Tidal’s audience size to selling records on a street corner.
“There’s 180 million people who stream in the U.S., on a somewhat regular basis,” he said. “Having it [Everything Is Love ] only on Tidal is like putting out a new album, and then just taking it to Bob’s record store, wherever. It doesn’t have much of an audience reach.”
Despite those numbers, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s decision to put the album on other streaming services was still surprising, especially considering her 2016 release, Lemonade, was a Tidal streaming exclusive. While Lemonade became available on iTunes a few days after its release, it has yet to reach Apple Music and Spotify.
Tidal offers a basic monthly membership for $9.99, and a message on its website says you can try it out for six months for free.
While Tidal promises exclusive content for members, Johnson said he tried it, but not for long.
“I had a subscription to it, and I didn’t find it to be as user friendly as some of the others,” he said. “But I do applaud Beyoncé and Jay-Z… They understand their worth and why shouldn’t they be a part of the game and have their own platform.”
Tidal did not respond to a request for comment.