Jay Z's streaming service Tidal has taken a low-tech but certainly more personal way to interact with fans - in-person phone calls from artists. If recent reports of departures and layoffs at the company are suggestive of the climate there, Tidal may need the help.
Andy Chen, the CEO of Tidal under its Swedish parent company Aspiro Group, has left the company, according to Billboard. The service announced that former Aspiro CEO Peter Tonstad will take over on an interim basis and lead the search for a replacement CEO, and that rumors of layoffs (estimates have run from around 25 to half that) are true.
"Tidal's new interim CEO is Peter Tonstad, a former CEO of parent company Aspiro Group," said Tidal reps in a statement. "He has a better understanding of the industry and a clear vision for how the company is looking to change the status quo. He's streamlining resources to ensure talent is maximized to enhance the customer experience.
"We've eliminated a handful of positions and refocused our company-wide talent to address departments that need support and cut redundancies. Tidal''s offices globally will remain and grow: we are already hiring for several new positions now. We're excited about our future and what's in-store for fans who want the best listening experience."
The move comes amid an already challenging time for the service, which has been under fire from high-profile artists like Mumford & Sons and Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard for being out of touch with the realities of most working musicians' lives.
Damage control may be necessary. Vania Schlogel, Roc Nations' chief investment officer and currently the day-to-day operator and sounding board for Tidal, said in an interview with Business Insider that some of the most high-profile artist/shareholders on the service -- including Jay Z and Jack White -- have been ringing individual subscribers to thank them for using it and to ask their opinions about the service.
Schlogel told the magazine that Jay "called some of his fans and one of them made the funniest comment. He said 'This is the best customer service call I've ever received!'" She also cited White -- a headliner at this weekend's round two of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival -- as one of Tidal's top artists making similar calls.
One feature of being an artist on Tidal, she said, is an ability to get hyper-detailed analytics about your fanbase, including being able to contact individual listeners of your music on the service. While most fans would probably be thrilled to get a thank you call from Jay Z for listening, it does offer a strange, modern context to music fandom to realize that an artist might be monitoring your fandom in real time, and be able to talk to you about it.
Whether this is a charming gesture from Tidal artists toward fans or the continuation of a glitzy PR campaign is yet to be seen. Schlogel said that Jay is "very deeply involved, and the reason being is because this is a life project for him." For one of music's pioneering artists and moguls to be making house calls suggests it truly is.