Tidal has a new CEO. An evergreen sentence that we get to use at least one or two times a year, it seems, for a role that’s become the music-streaming industry’s equivalent of Spinal Tap’s drummers.
The latest incumbent is Richard Sanders, who was president of Kobalt Music Group until earlier this year, with a background before that heading Sony Music’s international and global marketing teams.
Variety reported his new role last night, claiming that telco Sprint’s CEO Marcelo Claure had a say in Sanders’ appointment, working with Jay-Z and Roc Nation’s Desiree Perez in the months since Tidal’s last CEO Jeff Toig departed in March. Claure joined Tidal’s board of directors after Sprint acquired a 33% stake in the streaming service earlier in the year.
Sanders’ job will be a mixture of firefighting – a widely-reported dispute with Kanye West was Tidal’s most recent headache – and strategic planning.
The company’s public user figures have long been the subject of speculation within the music industry, with an investigation by Norwegian journalists in January pouring cold water on Tidal’s past claims of three million subscribers. Midia Research estimates that Tidal had a million paying subscribers at the end of 2016.
However, Sprint’s $200m investment has provided Tidal with new runway to figure out how to differentiate itself in a market of bigger streaming beasts, at a time when even its co-owner’s new album ‘4.44’ was only exclusive to Tidal for a short time.
Sprint appears to be pulling its weight with a six-month free trial of Tial’s HiFi tier for its customers, but Sanders will need to figure out how Tidal can catch up with rivals on features like personalisation, while trying to surpass them in other ways that will keep those trialists around (and paying) in the longer term.