Tidal sees spate of top management quitting

Rapper Jay Z bought Tidal this year, but the music streaming service is facing stiff competition from other similar services.
Rapper Jay Z bought Tidal this year, but the music streaming service is facing stiff competition from other similar services.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Since Jay Z bought Tidal early this year, the music streaming service has been plagued by frequent management changes and the perception both inside and outside the music industry that it was unlikely to succeed in a market dominated by Spotify, Apple and Pandora.

It now seems that the company's management turnover has been even more extensive than previously known, as Ms Vania Schlogel, the former private equity executive who represented Tidal in public and to investors as its chief investment officer, left the company months ago.

"Earlier this summer, I resigned from Tidal," she said in a statement to The New York Times. "While I am excited about my next venture, which is outside the music industry, I wish Tidal nothing but the best and am proud of the dialogue it has catalysed to date. I hold the highest degree of respect for each of the artists who have advocated for this dialogue and who display a genuine care for the industry."

Mr Chris Prouty, a Tidal spokesman, confirmed that Schlogel had resigned.

He said: "As the company has grown, there has been less of a need from a financial investment standpoint."

Ms Schlogel's resignation is at least the third high-level departure at Tidal since Jay Z bought the company for US$56 million (S$80 million) and reintroduced it to the public in a star-studded news conference in New York in March.

At that event, he stood with more than a dozen performers, including Madonna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Rihanna and Jack White, who were identified as co-owners of the company.

They presented Tidal as an artist- friendly digital outlet that would feature high-fidelity audio and video, and pay artists fairly. But the event was widely mocked as tone-deaf and short on details, with commentators and other musicians criticising Tidal as primarily benefiting an elite group of celebrities.

Within weeks, Mr Andy Chen, the chief executive of Aspiro, Tidal's corporate parent, left the company. His replacement, Mr Peter Tonstad, followed in June. The position has been vacant since his departure, Mr Prouty said.

Ms Schlogel is a former executive at the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and at Tidal she became - aside from Jay Z - the company's public face.

She introduced the service at its news conference in March and in the months afterwards frequently represented the company to the public, giving numerous interviews in which she said that the company's intentions had been misinterpreted.

But after speaking in early June at Midem, a music conference in Cannes, France, she seemed to disappear.

She had been advertised as a participant in two more industry conferences - the New Music Seminar in New York in June; and Revolt, in Miami Beach last month - but did not show up at either one. She declined to elaborate on why she left Tidal.

For much of the year, music industry chatter about Tidal has been harsh, as the company worked in apparent haste to secure licensing deals with major record companies, including Sony, the label of Beyonce, Jay Z's wife, who is another partner in Tidal.

In August, a survey by Billboard magazine of more than 50 anonymous music executives found that 71 per cent of respondents expected Tidal to last "one year or less"; only 12 per cent said the service was "not going away".

But Tidal has also had some successes lately. In September, Jay Z said the service had signed up one million subscribers. (Aspiro had ended last year with 500,000, according to its annual report.)

And in October, a Tidal concert at Barclays Center in Brooklyn featuring Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Usher, Minaj, Beyonce and others raised US$1.5 million for charity.

This week, however, it faced even more prominent competition when YouTube introduced a music- focused app that, when combined with YouTube Red, a US$10-a- month subscription, includes a range of new features such as eliminating ads and listening to music offline.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Tidal sees spate of top management quitting'. Print Edition | Subscribe