Uber and Adland’s shallow understanding of innovation and disruption

Innovation is not an end in itself and neither is disruption. Innovation tends to be inevitable and it often leads to something good or better than what was there before, but how do we define ‘good’? Does it have to be good for everyone? It can be good for some and bad for others. Disruption, a word we have come to understand as a positive in recent years, is often bad our unsettling for a much wider group of people. As we gradually slide into a reality where the ‘gig-economy’ is the norm for large sections of society, from the recent immigrant trying to navigate the treacherous roads of Knightsbridge on his bicycle with your Dishoom order in his thermo-bag, to the Graphic Designer following the next Upwork request to a busy agency during pitch-week, it’s important to understand that innovation and disruption are phenomena which come with a set of winners and a set of losers.

The recent Uber fiasco, whereby Transport for London announced that the companies operating license with not be renewed due to evidence that key health and safety regulations have not been properly complied with, is currently top-of-mind for anyone who lives and works in London. 730,000 Londoners have signed a petition to express their collective concern for the livelihoods of Uber’s 40,000 operating drivers in London and protest this bureaucratic affront to ‘consumer choice’ and ‘convenience.’ In a particularly striking ‘hit ’em where it hurts’ effort seemingly designed to provoke London Mayor Sadiq Khan, it also states that the ban demonstrates that ‘London is far from being open.’

Of course there are various reasons to take issue with the ban. Firstly, alongside Uber’s repeated failure to comply fully with regulations and keep its users safe, the company has also demonstrated an unsavoury approach to worker’s rights and fair compensation for drivers, built a corporate culture in which women are marginalised and had a tendency to wriggle out of its UK tax obligations. There is a strong case for saying that had TFL intervened earlier and more forcefully against Uber’s unsavoury practices, then we may have not got to this point where there are tens of thousands of individuals, many from the poorest strata of society, are in danger of losing their livelihoods and finding themselves up against the prospect of thousands of pounds of vehicle debt. Secondly, we should be careful not to put Black Taxi drives or a pedestal. Yes, the wanky Thatcherite moans against ‘cabbie cartels’ and ‘pleasing the unions’ are tiresome and often infuriating, but it’s absolutely necessary to note that the industry has historically had a disturbing relationship with women and ethnic minorities as both customers and colleagues and that this particular model is often lacking a relevant proposition for customer needs such as convenience and value. Thirdly, we should also note that many local mini-cab firms have a similarly sketchy record on worker’s rights and women’s safety.

Despite all of the above, Uber has hidden behind the infantile logic of the Silicon Valley capitalist culture and its glossary of empty terms.  In a collective act of projecting our insecurities about our place in an ever-changing world, where very few of us have solid guarantees that there isn’t a ‘disruptive’ technology ready to nudge us over the edge into redundancy, we have decided that Uber is king. It is making billions by making our lives easier. We are free from the shackles of greedy black cabbies and sleazy minicabs- to hell with worker’s rights, safety and other people’s shrinking livelihoods- it’s evolve or die baby! Anyone raising questions about any of this is a Luddite who hates innovation and the inevitable forward motion of time’s arrow.  Despite the rosy perception of Uber that lives in the minds of its staunchest advocates, we know that the company is in fact artificially keeping its prices down with investor subsidies, with the objective of monopolising via price disruption. The company is proven to have $2 billion in operating loses, more than any startup in history. In the increasingly unlikely-looking event that the company continues to operate within the next 5-10 years, we can all look forward to prices climbing back up to the market standard. With all of this in mind it is difficult to make the case for Uber being either a genuinely inspiring commercial innovation or a force for consumer and social good.

So what does this all have to do with the advertising industry?

It’s highly unlikely that you’d be unable to find a pitch deck or strategy presentation in most agencies without  an ‘Uber slide.’ The slide is likely only to have an Uber and an Airbnb logo, sitting smugly side by side against a bare white background, ready for a charismatic planner or creative director to start waxing lyrical about ‘disruption,’ to the delight of optimistic clients who believe that their new dishwasher-tablet is ready to change the game and revolutionise the way we think about clean dishes. We’re all been in meetings when agency teams are genuinely stumped by an obvious flaw or awkwardly ill-fitting attribute of a client’s product or service. ‘We could be disruptive with gravy-flavoured ice cream’ bounds out across the table. Heads nod and it seems like we should be in with a chance of getting this project off the ground, at least until it faces the dumbfounded glare of a focus-group in Nuneaton. Some digital agencies  are also guilty of obfuscating and abstracting in order to sell an idealised, supposedly consumer-centric vision of marketing which often serves to mask ineffective, and dishonest practices. TV and print, they say, are outmoded and not fit for purpose when compared to the innovative solutions offered by programmatic, social listening and various other hyper-targeting and engagement tools. This is why it is no surprise that, in this morning’s Campaign industry-vox-pop on the issue, it is the digital agencies that insist that the TFL ban ‘send’s the wrong message about London’ and that  ‘innovative businesses and tech start-ups might think twice about coming to London.’ Whilst thesis may be valid concerns, the lack of thoughts given to the adverse effects of companies like Uber, seems to betray a slavish adherence to the self-congratulatory mythos of the tech-set. Of course Adland mostly goes along with all of this. We’re all terrified of losing our purpose and place, and mostly importantly our talent, to today’s tech giants, so like a dad listening to his son’s Young Thug album on the drive to work, or a mum lingering for too long during pre drinks at your mate’s house, we try to rub up against our tech counterparts, aping their language, comparing everything we do to them, boasting of our start-up mentalities.

It’s fine to be excited about innovative technology and things that genuinely drive meaningful change in our day-to-day lives but if we bat away the real concerns of other people and fail to consider that not every stride forward is cheerfully welcomed by everyone, we will find ourselves looking increasingly foolish, unoriginal and pointless.

 

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 Please leave Generation Z alone until 2018

If you’re in the toy or gaming industry you don’t need to read this. 

I’m hearing more and more about the need for brands to appeal to ‘Generation Z.’ Otherwise known as ‘post-millennials’ or, if you prefer weird militaristic terminology, the ‘Homeland Generation, ‘ these are individuals born after 1998 (making the oldest ones 18). They have never known a world without easy internet access, e-commerce, financial downturn, smartphones, an African American leader of ‘The Free World’, legislation protecting almost all minorities, the minimum wage and the threat of terrorism. They will admittedly be an interesting bunch and will bring with them a heap of new challenges for marketers down the line however there does seem little point in trying to actively reach a demographic who, at this stage in their lives, don’t have any of their own money.

The counter-argument that I would anticipate is that brands are what people are increasingly choosing to define themselves with. For example, there is no shortage of brand-complemented narcissism on Instagram, Buzzfeed’s commercial partners manage to merge their ‘listcicles’ with lifestyle-base content and Apple’s marketing is largely based on the personal qualities that its target market aspire to. If we follow this logic then it would make sense to get in there early with Gen Z (sorry) however there is one major factor that is being overlooked and that is that kids and teenagers have not fully developed yet as individuals.

Sure, Generation Z likely enjoy Zoella videos and Minecraft or One Direction or whatever but these are things that they will grow out of and probably be embarrassed by once they reach an age where they have their own income- I used to think The Kooks’ ‘Naive’ was a brilliant song, I watched How I Met Your Mother and thought that The Libertines were a culturally pivotal band for Pete’s sake (pun intended). We also have no idea how this demographic will evolve once they start to have to deal with financial responsibility, career choices, marriage, voting, tax, parenthood etc. Might this impact their starry eyed social liberalism or their projected entrepreneurial spirit? Who can say?

By no means am I saying that Generation Z aren’t an important research topic for planners, marketing strategists and the like. There is no harm in trying to understand them or even making some speculations about what their spending habits and feelings towards various brands might be however it seems foolish to be putting time, effort and money into ‘reaching’ them with our advertising before they have any independent purchasing power, experience of adulthood or sense of what defines them as individuals. So back off until 2018 when some of them will be 21 and spending their Zero-Hour Contract wages on products that they’ll take home to their parents homes which they’ll still be living in because of the Housing Crisis.

Apple Music, the brand and first impressions

So it’s finally happened, Apple has thrown its hat into the ring alongside Spotify, Google Play and the (in my opinion) doomed Tidal. Announced by its beautiful TBWA produced ad the company has rolled out its music streaming service allowing those of us dependant on both Apple products and music streaming to sync up with the mothership. Emphasizing music discovery and curation the new service allows you to browse artists to whom you can ‘connect’ and receive periodic updates and follow popular cultural platforms such as Vice and Pitchfork who are dispersing playlists alongside those created by Apple.

As one of the world’s strongest brands, one that’s built on innovation, premium design aesthetics and most importantly being used-friendly, Apple has done a pretty solid job with its streaming service. What sets Apple Music aside from both previous Apple products and its competitors is its emphasis on curation. As well as opting to follow media brands such as Noisey and Pitchfork you can also tap in to the vast amount of playlists that Apple have curated for you based on what you told them you’re into. I’ve been suggested everything from ‘Introduction to Four Tet’ to ‘SoCal Punk’ to ‘The Fall:The 90s’ to ‘Hipster’s Guide to R&B’ and ‘Lounge Rap,’ it’s all highly specific and new suggestions seem to present themselves to me every time I hit the ‘For You’ tab. Beneath all of this is the acknowledgement of the profound truth that we are in an age of personal and public curation. The user gets the opportunity to work alongside the existing algorithm to control how they get to access and explore music and then curate a library of tracks which compliment, or perhaps exacerbate the individuals sense of who they are- it is a prime example of branding and the innovation lies in the way in which the (forgive me Mr Hegarty) consumer is involved. This will reach even further once the planned social media integration is rolled out.

It does, of course, have its flaws. Multiple music and tech commentators have pointed to the overload of features and content and the awkwardness of certain aspects of the interface. I do not doubt that this will be worked out in subsequent versions, Apple has released some pretty clunky incarnations of iTunes in the past- nobody’s perfect! From a PR perspective Apple could have done without its run-in with industry power-broker Taylor Swift who initially held out on releasing her hugely popular 1989 album to the service due to the initial policy of not paying royalties during the trial period.

Despite a few predictable bumps in the road Apple Music has gotten off to a good start. It’s a prime example of marketing led innovation at its best, leveraging both its existing cultural credit and influence and launching itself in line with the current truths of the market. A couple of personal peeves that I have with the service are firstly, where the hell is all of the UK Garage? All I could find was a really weird cover of ‘Blinded by the Lights’ by The Streets and Daniel Bedingfiled’s ‘Gotta Get Through This.’ Also I don’t really understand how Beats 1 Radio works, do I just check the schedule for the shows that I wanna hear?

Quick thought: Why has it taken will.i.am to point out the bleeding obvious about YouTube ads?

At last week’s Cannes Lions festival in the south of France accomplished hit-maker, brand-collaborator and The Voice judge will.i.am appeared alongside Sir Martin Sorrell, Johnny Hornby of CHI&Partners (and The &Partnership who brought us the event), Google SVP Lorraine Twohill and Will Lewis, CEO of the Wall Street Journal. will.I. am quickly sees his co-panelists turn against him once he dares suggest that people skip, or at least don’t actually watch YouTube pre-roll ads.The fun kicks off at around the 2.13 mark:

We all know that YouTube, like most platforms, wouldn’t be possible without ads- we all accept this. There is however a problem when most of the industry drinks the proverbial ‘Kool Aid’, buying into the mass-delusion that people appreciate seeing ads before accessing their desired content. The solution? There are probably people far more intelligent than I on the case but since it’s out of the question to do away with this unpopular yet necessary method of reaching the public I would put forward that advertisers and media owners need to start looking at how to properly target their ads to people who may actually be interested in the product being advertised and brands and agencies need to work together to tailor their content to fit the platform in terms of being engaging, entertaining and relevant enough to minimize user frustration from having to see an ad.

That’s just me though, what do I know?

No Sir Martin, Alex Da Kid is not a good choice for your music venture. Here are some alternatives…

Despite what you may think of him Sir Martin Sorrell is a very clever man, he wouldn’t be the global emperor of Adland if he wasn’t. It is for this reason that I am surprised at his choice of partner for WPP’s new music venture KidinaKorner. If you don’t know who Alex ‘Da Kid’ Grant is, he’s the pop mastermind behind providing the production to compliment the former provocateur and enfant terrible of pop-culture Eminem’s transformation into ex-junkie motivational speaker and MOR purveyor (i.e. ‘Love you the way you lie’ and ‘I need a Doctor’). He’s also produced some low impact chart-filler for high tier popstars such as Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, B.O.B. and Imagine Dragons (yeah those guys who Kendrick Lamar shat all over his current credibility in collaborating with).

Speaking about the venture Da Kid has stated “Music is extremely powerful and plays a very important role in people’s lives, connecting them to a moment that is uniquely personal. Unfortunately, it can often be the last thing to get attention when programs are being planned. KidinaKORNERCreate offers a new model, bringing music to the forefront of every level of the creative process; planning, strategy and execution. This approach will create more substantial and meaningful engagement with the audience.” This in itself is a fantastic, profound observation which some parts of the industry have started to pick up on.The question is whether Alex Da Kid is the right person to do this. SMS has called the producer ‘ a genuine innovator’ which, in the age of Kanyes, FKAs, James Murphys, Beyonces, Jamie XXs, James Blakes, Diplos, Tylers, ASAPs, Skeptas, Arcas, Bjorks is pretty laughable. Creative Directors, Planners and Account Handlers shouldn’t be rushing to soundtrack beautiful ads with crossover tunes which sound like they’ve been thrown together from existing loops at the last minute. I am not arguing that an established producer should be sidelined for some obscure soundcloud based minimal tech producer or ‘proper’ indie band. I am arguing that more thought should be given to selecting a partner with a real in-depth understanding  of popular music, culture and trends- and most importantly what constitutes ‘cool.’ Far be it from me to shit all over an idea without suggesting an alternative so here are my pics for a better partner in this venture:

A.G. Cook

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Kicking things off with the wild-card here, AG Cook- PC Music’s benevolent leader has a history of working with brands such as Illamasqua form whom he provided Art Direction for the company website and complied a tailored playlist and the Red Bull Music Academy who have been heavily involved in the label’s live shows. Despite making his name as a pop and dance producer, Cook’s tastes (past and present) have been wide-ranging citing Hudson Mohawke, David Guetta, Scritti Politti, Captain Beefheart, UK Garage, Girls Aloud, K-Pop, Frank Zappa and Cassie. Cook is also a good fit due to the nature of his music, unlike the broader consensus among artist, he seems open to working with brands and engaging more with the capitalist music machine. With a production style that apes commercial pop and a growing portfolio of high-level collaborations including Charlie XCX, Cook interrogates our commercial reality and is fascinated by the concept of artifice.

Pros: A history of working with brands, embraces commercial realities of music industry and has a seemingly wide understanding of popular music and culture.

Cons: Resides over sometimes controversial and divisive roster of artists and might lack music and advertising industry leverage being somewhat marginal at this stage.

Dev Hynes

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As the darling of the now R&B-friendly blogosphere and indie critic circle, the eclectic Dev Hynes has been through several musical incarnations. Starting as an indie and folk artist under the name Lightspeed Champion before moving on to post-hardcore and Dance Punk with the short-lived Test Icicles, Dev Hynes has since plateaued with his creative re-imagining of 80s New Wave and alternative R&B as Blood Orange. Despite these varied alt credentials Hynes remains a go-to songwriter and producer for everyone from Britney Spears, Diane Vickers and The Sugababes to more critically acclaimed artists such as Theophilus London, FKA Twigs, Solange and Heems. Hynes clearly has a broad knowledge of various types of music posting videos or everyone from Michael Jackson to Ice Cube to Oasis to Talking Heads to John Cage on his Facebook page. He is also something of a style icon with his interpretation of 80s normcore style making him something of an icon.

Pros: Connected to a wide range of artists across genres, proven and varied track record of creativity and deep knowledge of different types of music.

Cons: No significant experience of working with brands aside from appearing in a GAP Advert alongside Evian Christ and Kelela.

Emily Haynie

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New York’s Emile Haynie cut his teeth on the obscure Hip Hop releases of C-Rayz Walz, Cormega and Obie Trice before falling in with bigger names such as Raekwon, Ghsotface Killah, The Roots and Kid Cudi. Since then he has expanded his production credits across genres to work with Lana Del Rey, Fun, Linkin Park, Rufus Wainwright, and Lykke Li with many of the aforementioned appearing on his solo debut We Fall. This eclectic mix of collaborators from Brian Wilson to FKA Twigs to ASAP Rocky plus the fact that he has a history of brand ownership after launching the now defunct label DreamOn with Kid Cudi and Plain Pat makes Haynie and ideal candidate.

Pros: Well connected and with a proven track record of producing records across genres.

Cons: Probably working on various projects as we speak, likely to be unavailable for the foreseeable future.

Cool Shit Round Up 19.06.2015

The Ad 

Germs on Holiday by DKLW Lowe for Domestos

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The Art

Low Poly Game of Thrones by Mordi Levi

 

The Tune

Leaders by Rome Fortune x Fourtet

The idea

James Murphy, veteran New Yorker and the man behind the excellent LCD Soundsystem is making a symphony from NY Subway bleeps


The Article
‘photographing strip club culture in the south’ by Felicity Kinsella at i-D

Quick thought: My moratorium on the word ‘consumer’

We do occasionally get a slow day at work, nothing but dull PoS items being requested by clients, waiting for translations back for a European market, getting the odd TV Ad through Clearcast etc. On these days I usually trawl through the ad press and blogosphere for ideas for posts on here (when I’m done with catching up on admin of course).  I was watching a talk given by the legendary BBH founder and Tech-incubatoralist Sir John Hegarty to an audience of marketers when I heard him express his dislike for the word ‘consumer.’ Intrigued by this I googled around and found it elaborates on in a written interview with Ad Age. Sir John states that ‘It’s demeaning. I think it just implies that the people we talk to just wait for our sales messages to be directed to whatever it is we want them to do. And I think that great advertising, great work, great brands have a dialogue with the people they talk to.’ For some reasoning this reasonated with me, I’m reminded of an analogy I read somewhere about advertising essentially being like one of Istanbul’s famous Bazaars where stall-owners all selling very similar items get mere seconds to capture your interest as you make your way through the crowded scene. One doesn’t walk through the crowded market simply waiting to hear the various propositions on things that they don’t really want or need, the individual’s attention is an earned prvillege, not a right as the passivity of word ‘consumer’ suggests. So just a thought really, something to mull over in the old noggin! I’ve certainly used the word a lot here, here and here but for now I’m retiring it from this blog.

Ranking the ‘Icons’: How well do Tidal’s celebrity owners fit the market? 

I’m still on the fence about Jay Z’s newly re-launched artist-owned streaming service Tidal. On the one hand it is refreshing to see artists discuss what rightful compensation for their product entails, yet there seems to be an air of Luddism (however justified) involved as creatives rebel against the ‘tech’ elite and ignore the realities of the market. My feeling at this juncture is that this is going to be a costly, but perhaps necessary learning curve for Jay Z, his business associates and the artists who have come forward as owners. One of the main concerns for onlookers is the fact that main rival Spotify prices it’s premium service at £9.99 per month which is significantly less than Tidal’s £19.99 price point. To address the disparity and present added value, subscribers to the top rate version are allowed exclusive early access to releases by participating artists as well as extra content such as podcast-like mini-docs and interviews. Also included in the higher tier is the promise of ‘lossless’ sound quality, something which I think respective  individuals care about to varying degrees.  I’m slightly apprehensive about the assumption that consumers care enough to fork out an extra ten or so quid but what I’m really concerned about is the target market or apparent lack there-of. In lieu of doing any more boring research I’m going to guess that there are (or should be) two main audiences who Carter and co. are trying to reach.

The first audience I think are 25-30 year olds, most-likely employed  (therefore not too hesitant about paying for streaming) , culturally engaged and socially well-orientated. This crowd is increasingly upwardly-mobile, accustomed to a reasonable work/life balance and non-resistant to the idea of organised fun. They enjoy discovering new artists through websites and blogs that they follow such as Noisey and Pigeons and Planes and will support artists through buying their records and attending their concerts at least more than they did 5-10 years ago.

The secondary audience, I would venture to guess, are predominantly male music fans who are past the 45 year mark. These guys spend a lot on Vinyl records and decent Hi-Fi equipment, they probably will care more about the interviews and mini-docs offered at the higher tier rate and they have no really idea about downloading music illegally unless they can convince their teenage son to do it for them. For this crowd Tidal will be like a version of the BBC’s 6Music platform where they get to pick the songs (neatly filtering out that grating Lana Del Rey tune that the morning guys insist on playing) and can dip into the odd Paul Weller interview.

It is with these two audiences in mind that I present you my list of the launch event declaration signees next to a ranking of how they fit the market ….

Alicia Keys- 7.5 

Alicia Keys seems to have an air credibility that hasn’t really shifted in the past 14 years that she’s been about. Sure she’s got a ton of best-selling pop hits under her belt but she also wins points for being largely inoffensive, seemingly humble and actually really good at the piano. Do I think that her audience are going to part with their £19.99 to hear ‘Girl on Fire’ in ‘lossless’ sound? Probably not. What about interviews, early releases, documentaries and any other more intimate artist experiences? I wouldn’t count on it, as talented and accomplished as she is you’re probably bit going to get a Yeezy-esque stream-of-consciousness or a piece-by-piece dissection of her processes. She does however lend the image of the respectable pop artist to the event and all of the sensible seriousness that age naturally conveys.

Arcade Fire- 8/10

From glancing at the desktop screens of the 40-45 year old white male contingent at work (the ones who buy a vinyl a week, still love guitar music, hate Dance Music and think Jimi Hendrix was the last Black musician worth listening to) , it’s abundantly clear that Arcade Fire is one of the few bands that have emerged in the last 10 years that they believe are worth listening to. They also appeal to the 25-30 market as the band that reminds them of their teenage/early-twenties obsession with authenticity.

Beyoncé- 8/10

Beyoncé has managed to expand her audience year-on-year, indie and alternative crowds have largely stopped turning their nose up at her since guitar music starting having its very drawn-out identity crisis/death and it became cool to suddenly find an intense love of 90s RnB, her loyal fans have followed her from good Southern Christian girl through to sexually-liberated pop-feminism icon and the Buzzfeed-reading masses continue to annoy me by regurgitating Queen Be(y?)-related memes and ‘listcicles.’ Essentially, there are few people with any kind of strong opposition to Beyoncé (my iPad keyboard is even adding the accent to the ‘e’ automatically) and her legions of loyal fans will likely follow her wherever she goes. Plus she’s Jay’s wife so yeah.

Calvin Harris- 4/10

Does the average person who listens to EDM-superstar DJ and producer Calvin Harris care enough about sound quality to spend £19.99 a month or have any sincere desire to hear his album a week prior to it’s release? Nope, they will hear it at Oceana (that still around?), on the radio in the car or via Facebook when one of their friends shares the video and proclaims it to be the ‘tune of the summer’ or whatever.

Chris Martin of Coldplay- 6/10

It’s too easy to poke fun at ‘plain white bread with a glass of water on the side for dipping’ musical-equivalent Coldplay. Jay Z thinks they’re amazing and they make more money that you and I because the general population also loves them. No they’re not particularly inspiring and they seem to be even less so when they try to be but they do appeal to a lot of people with their faux-sincerity and traditional line up and general sound. It’s not too hard to visualise someone wanting to hear their album early or in an enhanced-quality format but they do lose points for doing so darned boring at an event about innovation and risk-taking.

Daft Punk 8.5/10

The interesting thing about Daft Punk is their ability to maintain a strong foothold in both commercial and mainstream markets. You’d have to have been deaf not to have heard ‘Get Lucky’ at least 123 times a couple of summers ago yet they still have the ear of more committed dance music heads. Their credentials are well established and it’s not much of a stretch to imagine consumers shelling out extra dough to hear their music in higher quality, enjoy an extensive interview and be amongst the first to hear their new album.

Deadmau5 4/10

C’mon son! Really? Is any Deadmau5 fan really that concerned about sound quality? Yes they might buy noise-cancelling headphones but £19.99 can go towards club night entry, MDMA ( Do EDM bros do MD?), drinks etc. Plus they’re not gonna be too bummed about waiting an extra week for the latest release if they’re likely to hear all the worthy hits at the Euro-dance festival they’re headed to in Croatia are they?

Jack White 8.5/10

Attracting the same kind of ‘real music’ crowd as the Arcade Fire listeners (probably more so), Jack White is a strong fit. These Dad-lads love a bit of Blues rock and will probably enjoy hearing Jack’s revivalism in high quality.

Jason Aldean ?

Idk who that is

J Cole 7.5/10

Ok probably. His fans are more interested in lyrics than his Kanye circa-College Dropout production but they’ll likely want the exclusive release and will be interested in hearing him break down his thought processes at length.

Jay Z- 9/10

Widely respected and  hella revered in most circles (barring the uber-crusties from Oasis), Jay Z fits the market very well. Granted a lot of people managed to illegally download Magna Carta Holy Grail when it was ‘exclusively released’ to Samsung early but I’m confident that loyal fans and general well-wishers will get a kick out of early releases and documentaries. This is sure to resonate with the 25-30 market who don’t generally have time to pursue illegal downloading as much anymore and who have relinquished previous music-snobbery in favour of mainstream glasto-headliners and cautious poptimism.

Kanye West- 8/10

There are certain risks with Yeezy due to his divisive nature as both an artist and an individual. However, his association with the mighty Kardashian dynasty has allowed him to become a household name even as his music becomes more and more left-field and irreverent. I don’t doubt for a second that people will be excited to hear his new material prior to official release and his interviews have become infamous for descending into rants or visionary proclamations depending on your stance (definitely the latter for me). Fans should also be eager to hear new releases in the ‘lossless’ format considering the fact that production is Mr West’s strong suite and he is likely to also call-in the services of a range of exciting supporting producers to assist.

Madonna 6/10

Bit of guesswork here, I don’t actually know anyone who listens to Madonna (not necessarily denigrating old Madge- just not my circles). All I can think of is people who know her early work from generally being a young adult in the 80s and I don’t think they’ll be too fussed about sound quality or exclusives. Nevertheless she remains a big name by virtue of having been the ‘Queen of Pop’ and adjusting to each generation’s cultural whims enough to remain vaguely relevant and that should count for something I imagine.

Nicki Minaj 6.5

It’s quite possible that this could interest 25-30 year olds and she has shed some of the pop-centric attributes in her latest release. You also get the feeling that she means business, so whilst I’m not sure that people will flock to the service for the £19.99 package in order to hear her mystic and anything else on offer, she does seem to have fit the tone of the event.

Rihanna 6.5

Another beneficiary of the growing respectability of pop music, Rihanna’s audience seems to be widening. With loyal fans and loyal detractors (fine lines people!) seemingly eager to discuss her music when and where possible  it’s certainly plausible that consumers might be tempted by early releases but I’m skeptical about them caring about the sound quality enough to invest.

Usher- 6

This one really depends on which direction he takes on his next release. If it’s something more innovative and relatively different like ‘Climax’ or something vibesy and incredibly well-produced like the ‘Confessions’ album then this could go up to a 7. If however we get something that panders to popular EDM-type dance floors then it seems that there’s little argument to be had in favour of including Usher in an event promoting high-quality streaming  through an artist-friendly platform that also throws in stuff like in-depth interviews and ‘making-of’ content.

Time will tell how well Tidal fares in this competitive yet also sinking market. I can’t seem to shake the sense that this is best understood as an experiment rather than an enterprise that is certain to reap significant rewards although part of me is glad that the surrounding debate has manifested itself in some form of positive action. Also  why no Kendrick Lamar? I reckon he would have fit perfectly.