“He’s not mad about mass incarceration. He’s not mad about wealth inequality. He’s not mad about the minimum wage not being high enough. He’s mad because millionaire artists are not getting a bigger cut of the money from the music that they make,” Watkins said. “Whatever his little corporate beef is right now, if that beef were not occurring, would Jay Z still be pulling out the race card on this issue?”
Also Read: Jay Z's Tidal Expands to 8 New Countries, Now Available in 43 Markets
Jay Z bought Tidal in January for a reported $56 million. Since then, it’s been besieged by branding problems, bad press, layoffs and the departure of CEO Andy Chen.
The streaming service was originally billed as being created to put control of music back in the hands of artists. Its relaunch in March — by some of the richest musicians on the planet including Madonna, Kanye West, Beyoncé and Rihanna — arguably hurt the brand’s image.
The streaming service kicked off with two subscription tiers: a basic membership for $9.99 per month and a $19.99 membership for better sound quality. While Tidal has promised exclusive content, some consumers say that’s not enough, especially when they can use “freemium” streaming services like Spotify.
On Monday, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj dropped the surprise music video for “Feeling Myself” exclusively on Jay Z’s service. Within hours of its debut, the footage had been ripped and posted on other websites, reinforcing the question of whether Tidal is worth the cost.
“Are there a million people who would sign up to get that exclusive?” Russ Crupnick, managing partner of streaming industry research firm MusicWatch, recently asked TheWrap. “Forgetting piracy. If that special album came out in Walmart or iTunes, how many people would buy it?”
While Spotify has a free option, and Pandora generates free custom radio stations, Tidal is just an app that streams music — for a hefty price, Crupnick explained.
Jay Z did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
But as Tidal’s struggles mount, Watkins believes they have little to do with the struggle for civil rights, despite Jay Z’s protestations.
“If you’re a Jay Z fan and you want to get behind him on this because he told you to do it, that’s fine. But this is far from any kind of meaningful statement on civil rights.”