After a turbulent start, the music subscription service Tidal may finally be heading toward calmer waters. The company announced on Dec. 2 that veteran digital music executive Jeff Toig will take the helm as its CEO on Jan. 4. Toig brings extensive experience at growing young tech companies: Before his most recent post, a two-year tenure as SoundCloud’s chief business officer, he was the founder and senior vp of Muve Music, Cricket Wireless’ innovative music service, and a member of the Virgin Mobile USA founding team. Jay Z, who bought Tidal in March, calls him “a leader at the intersection of consumer technology and entertainment for more than two decades.”
Toig has his work cut out for him. Since Tidal’s splashy launch on March 30, it has gone through two chief executives, Andy Chen and interim CEO Peter Tonstad, and lost chief investment officer Vania Schlogel, among others. Adding to the bad optics have been rumors that Jay Z is looking to sell the company or partner with another service. Toig shoots down the notion that Tidal is a short-term play for the rap mogul. “I was really struck by his deep commitment to the business,” he says. “It’s one of the main reasons I took the job.”
The music-subscription market has changed dramatically in the nine months since Jay Z bought the Swedish technology company Aspiro and its WiMP streaming service (renamed Tidal) for $56 million. Apple Music’s June launch was followed by the arrival of YouTube Red in October. On Nov. 16, Internet radio company Pandora announced it would acquire parts of bankrupt Rdio for $75 million as a steppingstone to launching its own on-demand service. Another tech giant, Amazon, is making strides with its Prime Music service, while Spotify has become even more dominant.
To survive, Tidal, now available in 46 countries, must capitalize on the benefits that its unique corporate structure can bring. Before the launch, Jay Z brought aboard 18 artist-owners, ranging from Alicia Keys and Daft Punk to Kanye West and Jack White, who can provide exclusive audio and video content in addition to performing at Tidal-branded concerts. The company, however, has been inconsistent in leveraging that content. Despite exclusive releases from Rihanna, Madonna, Prince and Lil Wayne, Spotify and YouTube often account for nearly all of those artists’ streams. Still, the potential in that area is substantial. Toig says, “There are really interesting connected components Tidal is trying to present to fans that look different from what other services do because of the artists who are involved.”