What Happened to Tidal When Jay-Z Said “Let Them Drink Water”

Jay-Z buys Tidal.

In 2015 Jay-Z invested $56 million in a holding company that owned the streaming music service known as Tidal. Partly in a move to beat Apple to the punch—their music streaming service was just getting ready to launch.

At a press conference in New York City in March of 2015, along with the core group of artist/owners of Tidal including Drake, Alicia Keys, and Madonna, the reveal was made. Tidal would be a home for high-fidelity audio and exclusive content where artists could get paid what they were rightly owed. They intended to change the course of music history forever.

“The challenge is to get everyone to respect music again, to recognize its value,” said Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter. “Water is free. Music is $6, but no one wants to pay for music. You should drink free water from the tap — it’s a beautiful thing. And if you want to hear the most beautiful song, then support the artist.” –New York Times, March 30, 2015

The Twitter vs. Tidal takedown

Aside from being a sentence that doesn’t make much sense, it was marketing suicide for Tidal. Twitter eviscerated Jay-Z for this statement. First of all, they pointed out, water is not free from the tap (he was directed to talk to the people who pay his bills), and secondly—he was on stage surrounded by multi-millionaire musicians who were asking to be paid…more. Those are not the musicians who need the help of an artist-owned streaming service like Tidal.

But most importantly, the question never answered that day, was how does all this benefit the subscriber?

The wrong hero.

Jay-Z made himself and the artists the hero of the story, and the subscriber was just along for the ride. And, apparently to support them in a venture that finally treated “these people that really care about the music with the utmost respect.”

Marketing success stories are based on the customer as the hero and the brand as the guide. Your marketing should always be positioned to answer your target market’s biggest question: How does this help me?

Jay-Z made himself and his “artist-owners” the heroes. He never once mentioned what the benefit was to his potential customer. What sets Tidal apart other than more money for artists who are already making big bucks?

As it turns out, nothing. Tidal is a sinking ship, and the captain himself is ready to jump. Just today, users discovered most of Jay-Z’s previously restricted catalog of music is back on Apple’s streaming service.

When you stop losing sleep over the success of your business and start losing sleep over how to help your customer succeed, your business will grow by leaps and bounds.

You are Yoda. Your customer is Luke Skywalker.

Always behind you 1,000%,

Scroll to Top