At the MIDEM Conference in Cannes on Friday, Vania Schlogel, Chief Investment Officer of the embattled new streaming service Tidal, gave a talk that was long on talking points, charm and positivity but short on new information. It was the sort of talk that probably would go over like gangbusters with investors, but was less suited to a music-industry conference.
Accompanied by a power point presentation of hand-drawn illustrations, Schlogel noted that music has lost a third of its value over past decade while demand increased exponentially. “From an investor standpoint,” she said, “it’s strange to see demand and value so far apart: the only time you see this is when the underlying product is commoditized.”
Her talk then transitioned into the topic of fans wanting to support artists, “but wondering how now that the connection of the CD or download is gone,” and noted the difficulty most people have in grasping the concept of streaming.
“I’ve looked through our streaming agreements, I don’t know what the hell’s going on, and I’m sure fans wouldn’t understand it,” adding later, “When industry jargon becomes the outward-facing consumer message, it’s scary.”
Noting Tidal’s superstar artist roster and the service’s goals of exclusive content for fans, she singled out the recent special J. Cole concert in North Carolina where he took requests from fans, and Jason Aldean’s recent Tidal-only behind-the-scenes videos.
“If the artists are empowered to connect, the fans are the beneficiaries,” she said. “Our job is to inspire and connect them. The product itself is good enough, simple enough, to hit everyone that loves music.”
In a 15-minute Q&A that followed (no audience questions were fielded), British industry vet Ralph Simon, CEO of Mobilium Global, began by asking Schogel about the “unfair smear campaign” the media has engaged against the service and what Tidal is doing about it.
“There is a lot of misinformation and misperception,” she replied. “Like for example, it was unfairly said about us that we didn’t care about indie artists. For a lot of our artists that commentary hurt, and shortly after launch we came out with Tidal Rising which is all about those kinds of artists.”
The Q&A went on to address when she thought Tidal might finalize its deal with Sony — “I think we’re very close, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the contract” — and the difference for her between working at Tidal and her previous job at Goldman Sachs (“That aspect of it is pretty cool, I get to wear sneakers to work”).
When asked how the company intends to fight the backlash that’s followed since its launch, Schlogel replied, “By doing what we’re doing. At the end of the day actions speak louder than words. We’ve been on this path of our actions supporting the music, we knew what we were doing, we didn’t go into this blind, we’ve been working on it for well over a year. There’s a real commitment there.”