Rough start for Jay Z's Tidal streaming service

NEW YORK (AFP) - Unveiled with the backing of some of music's top stars, the Tidal streaming service led by rap mogul Jay Z has gotten off to a rocky start.

After a brief spike in interest following its relaunch on March 30, Tidal was on Tuesday the 872nd most downloaded iPhone app in the United States, and the 51st among music apps.

It has fared little better in most other countries. Sweden, Tidal's base, was the only country where it entered the top five list for downloaded apps, according to tracking service App Annie.

The Internet radio provider Pandora was the most downloaded music app in the United States, with Spotify - seen as the rival targeted by Tidal - not far behind.

Tidal last week replaced its chief executive officer and announced layoffs, although it said it was also hiring for new positions.

Jay Z earlier this year bought Tidal from Swedish-listed parent Aspiro for US$56 million (S$75 million) amid a rapid growth in streaming, which allows unlimited on-demand music.

Tidal has marketed itself to high-end audiophiles, using larger file sizes than Spotify and charging US$19.99 - twice as much as its rival - for the full service.

Tidal also billed itself as geared toward artists amid charges that Spotify has insufficiently compensated musicians.

At the relaunch of Tidal in New York, Jay Z brought out stars said to be partners in the service including Madonna, Kanye West, Daft Punk and Beyonce - Jay Z's wife, who later released a love ballad for him exclusively on Tidal.

But several artists have publicly criticised the roll-out, saying that Jay Z contradicted his own message of supporting artists by making it appear as if some of the world's biggest musicians wanted more money.

"When they say it's artist-owned, it's owned by those rich, wealthy artists," Marcus Mumford, the frontman of Mumford & Sons, charged in a recent interview with The Daily Beast website, which said that the band members responded to the mention of Tidal with "a series of loud fart sounds."

Money generated from streaming around the world shot up 39 per cent last year, helping digital music match physical sales for the first time, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.