How Tidal's Exclusives Could Hurt a Song's Chart Position

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Nicki Minaj attends the 2014 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 18, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The new company's artist-shareholders may want to boost its profile and value -- but what will it cost them?

Tidal's artists that give the subscription service exclusive content are helping draw attention, and subscribers, to the artist-owned company -- but the artists have to weight the tradeoff of being absent from far more popular services.

One of those tradeoffs, and a major one, is a song's achievement on the Billboard charts. The fewer people listen to a single, the lower the single will chart on Billboard's Hot 100 and other charts that incorporate streaming data.  

If the song were streamed exclusively at Tidal, Nicki Minaj's "Truffle Butter" would have dropped from No. 15 to No. 19 on the April 11th Hot 100 chart, according to a Billboard analysis. (See explanation of the calculations below.) Beyonce's "7/11" would have lost eight places, going from No. 44 to No. 52; Drake's "Know Yourself" would have suffered more precipitously, descending from No. 57 to straight off the Hot 100; and Kanye West's "All Day" would drop from No. 62 to No. 84.

None of those artists has yet released a recording exclusively to Tidal, although all four are "artist-shareholders" in the company. The most notable exclusives have been from Rihanna, who through her own record label has released two tracks exclusively to Tidal, "Bitch Better Get My Money" (which debuted at #23 on the Hot 100 on the strength of digital track sales) and "American Oxygen." 

These theoretical chart positions were tallied assuming exclusive tracks' streams from on-demand audio services would drop 95 percent. There are a few reasons to use this estimate. First, there are few Tidal subscribers in the United States, where the service launched in November and re-launched under Jay Z's ownership last week, Second, Spotify accounts for 80 percent of one major labels streams, according to multiple sources. Third, Nielsen Music, which provides sales and streaming data to Billboard, does not yet track Tidal's streaming activity. For these reasons, we believe an estimate that Tidal could account for 5 percent of potential streams is fair and conservative.