Tidal launch was mismanaged, says Arcade Fire's Win Butler
Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.
There’s a fight going on for your ears. Can you hear it? Can you hear it?
As streaming services attempt to differentiate themselves, one wonders whether real people think it’s all more or less the same.
When Jay Z launched his Tidal music service in March, partnered by some very famous artists, he seemed to believe that everyone would turn toward Tidal because of these very artists.
One of those artists, Arcade Fire’s bandleader Win Butler, has now revealed that the launch was a bit of a mess. In an interview with the Independent, Butler admitted, “It was a poorly managed launch.”
Some might wonder about artists who believe they know how to present a product. It’s one thing when they’re the product. It’s another when the product is a service.
Butler explained that he and his wife — band co-leader Régine Chassagne — got involved because of the promise of HD streaming. However, “None of the artists knew anything about the PR,” he said.
Sadly, the PR is quite an important thing. Giving people good reasons to pay attention to your product is, especially in this cluttered environment, vital. Presenting a bunch of stars and believing that people will instantly toss money at them is, at best, naive. Even Tom Jones only gets a certain amount of women’s underwear thrown at him.
And then there was the price. Butler explained that the music labels “dictated” that it must be $20.
“The major label music industry has completely ruined every aspect of their business,” he said. “At every step of the way they’ve had the tools offered to them to create an industry that works, and they’ve completely blown it.”
Tidal, which did not respond to a request for comment, has struggled. CEOs have come and gone. In July, it cut the price by 50 percent for anyone who joined an already existing Tidal account, bringing it into line with Spotify.
However, can any of the streaming services truly be said to show a grasp of marketing? Apple Music launched with pleasant ads that assumed a style — an assumptive style — while eschewing too much content. It followed with ads featuring unknown artists, ads that were little more than short music videos.
After that, the service offered an ad during the MTV Video Music Awards featuring The Weeknd. The product was somewhere in there. I wonder, though, how many understood what it actually is or does.
At heart, Butler seems to understand that this is a competition in which services such as Spotify got a very good technological head-start and others haven’t worked out how to get real people to pay enough attention.
Butler did wonder, however, about real people’s descent into the hell of technology. Some have thought, on hearing some of the band’s lyrics, that Arcade Fire was anti-technology. Some assumed that Butler was aghast at how gadgets are corrupting human minds and turning us into reactive organisms with the attention span of a Ritalin-free child after six Coca-Colas.
However, he said, “I don’t give a s*** about iPhones. When I was a kid it was, ‘TV is going to rot your brain.’ Every era has something to take its place.”
The question for all the streaming services, though, is what place they will have in this era and beyond.
What can they do to make music not be seen as just another disposable commodity?
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