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When Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s long-awaited joint album as The Carters, Everything Is Love, arrived out of the blue on Saturday, it sent fans into a desperate frenzy on Twitter, as word spread and people clamored to hear it. The reason: Everything Is Love arrived as a Tidal-only exclusive, with just the music video for “APESHIT” available to those without access to a Tidal account.
That appears to have given the scrappy streaming service’s subscription numbers a boost. Though Tidal didn’t disclose any data, its app leaped from outside the top 500 for iPhones in the U.S. on Friday to No. 35 on Saturday, and jumped again to No. 28 on Sunday, according to data that AppAnnie provided to Billboard. Among only music apps, it jumped from No. 40 on Friday to No. 3 on Saturday, and held that rank through Monday (among all apps, it fell to No. 38 on Monday). The album became available on all streaming services on Monday.
On AppAnnie’s U.S. iPhone revenue charts, which track apps by in-app subscriptions and purchases, Tidal rose from No. 4 on Friday to No. 2 on Saturday among all music apps, and maintained that mark through Monday; among all apps, it rose from No. 32 on Friday to No. 9 over the weekend, falling back to No. 13 by Monday.
It’s worth noting, however, that AppAnnie’s revenue charts count in-app purchases by credit card transaction and that Tidal offers any new user a free 30-day trial to both its $9.99/month and $19.99/month tiers. While those who signed up for a free trial had to provide credit card information, those users were not charged, meaning that those who helped push the app up the revenue charts either exhausted their free trial, are signing back up again and thus were unable to use the free trial for new users or forewent the free period entirely.
How many of those who re-downloaded Tidal will stick around after the trial period ends, particularly now that the album is widely available, remains to be seen, of course.
Since Tidal’s splashy launch in March 2015, subscription streaming has exploded, with the likes of Spotify (75 million subscribers) and Apple Music (38 million subscribers since its own launch in July 2015) snatching up much of the market globally. By comparison, Tidal has grown modestly, with sources telling Billboard that the service has approximately 1 million subscribers around the world (380,000 to 480,000 in the U.S.), of which 30,000 or so are signed up for its $19.99/month hi-fidelity audio tier.
This isn’t the first time a Tidal-only exclusive has boosted the streaming service’s profile — or short-term signup count. In 2016, splashy releases from Rihanna (Anti-), Kanye West (The Life of Pablo) and Beyoncé (Lemonade) were rolled out with Tidal-only exclusive windows, while Jay-Z’s Blueprint series was restricted to Tidal that March, as well; at the end of that month — Tidal’s one-year anniversary — the service claimed 3 million global subscribers, many of which appeared to have let their subscriptions lapse as the industry has largely moved away from an emphasis on exclusives. (Tidal has not released subscriber numbers in the two-plus years since.) But those previous short-term subscribers must now pay full price when they want to sign up again to hear new exclusive releases, or, as many on social media joked, sign up with new email addresses.
While the surge in interest in Tidal may now be abating (at least by AppAnnie’s metrics) as the album becomes available more widely, the Everything Is Love release proved again that Tidal still has a rabbit to pull out of its hat — namely, those artist-owners who remain some of the most high-profile and top-tier artists in global music. Billboard also reported June 6 that the industry at large is happy to indulge Tidal, encouraged by its $19.99/month hi-fidelity tier that can become a growth opportunity once regular streaming subscriptions reach saturation. And in today’s economy, where being first is just as important as being there at all, it begs the question: Convenience aside, why not Tidal? If it can keep pulling rabbits out of its hat, it may still be able to hang on.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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