Early this week Jay-Z took to Twitter, to defend the fort he spent quite a bit of (literal and figurative) capital to build. In case you didn’t know: Jay-Z bought a music streaming outlet, and— in an effort to develop and market it— he partnered with several other popular artists to create an “artist owned” high-fidelity service. I know… who cares, right? Well, apparently all of us were supposed to. The commercial is so ridiculously over-the-top it seriously makes it seem as if he’d invented a cold fusion reactor or something:
Not surprisingly, the internet’s reaction was lackluster at best. Now, I understand that such a high-end Hi-Fi paid streaming service has a market. There must be some VERY serious audiophiles out there who are (I’m sure) thrilled at the prospect of “lossless streaming”… but that’s not who this marketing campaign is targeting. It’s targeting the general public. Over and over, this bevy of attached celebrities keep exclaiming how “this is going to revolutionize music.” The only problem is that the very things that separate it from other, less-expensive streaming services are things that the average user probably doesn’t care much about. I mean, if the general public seriously cared about how much artists are paid, illegal pirating wouldn’t be a problem; and if people really demanded that type of peak audio quality you’d see a lot more Bose earphones out there, and far fewer Beats by Dre.
When I first saw the ad for TIDAL I was skeptical; but I recently read an article about the general response on Twitter and began wondering if maybe this is about more than people not wanting to pay 20 bucks a month for CD quality streaming and a smattering of exclusive content. Are we seeing the first cracks in the celebrity cult? The first evidence that people are questioning celebrity-based marketing, and demanding more from their purchases than mere knowledge that someone famous told them they should? Not long ago the aforementioned Dr. Dre could simply assure people that his headphones were somehow worth 300 dollars, and many people would pay it without question. It happened. So, this may be a confusing time for celebrities who’ve enjoyed lengthy careers of unflinching support.
It’s true that there’s always been a public sense of schadenfreude whenever a celebrity makes a misstep, but usually with the underlying caveat “I can’t believe normal stuff happens to famous people!” However… I’ve started to think we may be coming to the end of that age. Is it a new age of skepticism, or a public that has grown weary of being ripped-off one too many times, or the growing sense that there are more important things in the world than what dress a starlet wears to an award show; it’s a perceptible groundswell, and I hope it continues. I long for a day when we no longer need listen to some pop music star endorsing a political candidate as if we must care what they think and why. I long for a day when we won’t hear some Hollywood actor pontificating that “rich people need to pay their fair share” while they themselves are registered as a corporation in the Cayman Islands…. I yearn for an end to grandstanding, when silence replaces custom-crafted sound-bytes of self-important advice from people we know aren’t qualified to give it.
Does that sound like a Utopia? Maybe. I know I’d certainly pay $19 bucks a month for it.