May 20, 2021

Did Jay-Z "Sellout" with Tidal?

This week, Jay-Z announced a historical deal to sell a majority stake of Tidal to Jack Dorsey’s Square. Twitter as you would expect blew up with plenty of questions and a few accusations. 

This week, Jay-Z announced a historical deal to sell a majority stake of Tidal to Jack Dorsey’s Square. Twitter as you would expect blew up with plenty of questions and a few accusations. 

Firstly, Why would Jack Dorsey want Tidal? What role does Cash App play in all of this? But more importantly, did Jay-Z “sell out” by giving majority ownership of Tidal to a white billionaire? 

Dan Runcie writes more in-depth on the crossover between Cash App, Hip-Hop, and presumably Tidal. According to Runcie, much of the value proposition for Square is the low cost of acquisition by positioning Cash App as the money app of Hip-Hop. On further examination, the partnership might not be as strange a fit as it appears. 

But none of this has spared Jay-Z from criticism. Countless people online have pointed to the sale as another sign that Jay-Z isn’t about the “culture,” but about his pockets. Is this fair criticism?

It certainly doesn’t seem so to me. The argument goes that Tidal was set up to be Black-owned forever.  

But with less than 3 million subscribers Tidal is hardly positioned to negotiate with labels or even survive in the market. Even Amazon Music has gained 30 million more users than Tidal. 

It’s a testament to Jay-Z’s business acumen that he sold north of $250 million for a fledgling service that was purchased for less than $60 million in 2015.

If the Black business movement is going to be more than a fad, then the faces of it can’t be constrained by ideas of "Black only” or “Black-owned everything."

Of course, if you dive into the comments (I don’t recommend that you do), the loudest agitators seem to have little to no business experience. Isn’t that always the case?

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