Kanye West et al. on a stage

This post is adapted from SurveyMonkey Intelligence, a Priceonomics Data Studio customer. Does your company have interesting data? Become a Priceonomics customer.


Since its launch in 2014, TIDAL has struggled to attract a large number of users. Despite the fanfare that surrounded the music service, which is backed by celebrity musicians like Jay Z, it has only a small fraction of the users and revenues of competitors like Spotify and Pandora. 

In an effort to attract new users, TIDAL made waves by obtaining the exclusive rights to Kanye West’s new album, The Life of Pablo. It was a bet that making TIDAL the only place to stream the anticipated new album would attract new subscribers—and that those subscribers would stick around after the free 30-day trial ended.

We decided to figure out if it worked. To do so, we analyzed TIDAL’s subscriber, usage and retention data from SurveyMonkey Intelligence, a Priceonomics customer that has a platform for measuring app performance.

According to the data, most of TIDAL’s gains from the Kanye West experiment were temporary. While Kanye and The Life of Pablo generated a flurry of downloads for the TIDAL app, these new users are not engaging in the app. It is unlikely that TIDAL will hold on to them for long. 

It appears that Kanye West’s impact on TIDAL subscriber numbers will be fleeting at best.

The Pre-Pablo Era

Before we investigate Kanye’s impact, let’s look at the mobile music app landscape as it existed before The Life of Pablo was released. The following chart displays the average weekly users of various services during January 2016. It includes both iOS and Android users.


Data Source: SurveyMonkey Intelligence

Apple Music sits comfortably at the top of the list at just over 48 million weekly users. Its position is aided by the fact that this data includes users who listen to their personal music libraries in the app—and the same is true for Google Play Music. But this still provides insight into how listeners consume their music. 

Popular streaming services Pandora and Spotify are next at 36 million and 31 million weekly users respectively. After that, there’s a steep drop all the way down to TIDAL, which places tenth with just over 150,000 users per week.

This time series of monthly user data for the top four streaming services and TIDAL illustrates this disparity:


Data Source: SurveyMonkey Intelligence

The Life of Pablo is Released

Kanye West has a knack for creating publicity and setting trends, and his announcement that his long awaited new album, The Life of Pablo (TLoP), would be available only on TIDAL had that effect.

He urged fans to listen, and they obliged. Within 24 hours, TIDAL skyrocketed to number one in the iOS App Store. Over the first five days of the album’s existence, TIDAL downloads exceeded those of both Spotify and Pandora.  

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Data Source: SurveyMonkey Intelligence

TIDAL downloads grew from 15,000 on February 13 to 254,000 on February 14. They peaked at 340,000 on February 15.

And then there was a precipitously steep decline.

Post The Life of Pablo 

While Kanye briefly made TIDAL a serious contender, the growth did not last. Daily downloads quickly reverted back to pre-TLoP levels.

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In early February, daily downloads hovered between 5,000 and 10,000. After the initial Kanye spike, downloads remained above 10,000 for over 2 weeks. But downloads fell back below the 10,000 threshold less than one month after the album’s release.

Downloads are a good metric to examine the new user base, but we can look at a few other metrics to consider how users engaged with the application during this time period. Below is a chart that shows the average number of days per month that subscribers used the app. It starts February 1—before the release of The Life of Pablo.  

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Leading up to and through the first few days of the Kanye release, TIDAL listeners used the service between 8 and 10 days a month, which is just as often as users of Pandora or Spotify. But engagement trends down after that. 

This suggests that the new users of TIDAL aren’t active users of TIDAL. They’re just on TIDAL to listen to Kanye’s album a few days a month, which pulls this average down.

To see this more clearly, we can look at the monthly engagement ratio over the same period. The monthly engagement ratio is the percentage of an app’s monthly audience that uses the app on a particular day.

chart, line chart

As we can see, before TLoP, a larger percentage of TIDAL users engaged with the app daily—even more than used Spotify or Pandora every day. After TLoP, this engagement ratio drops immensely to a low of 15%. Just as we concluded above, the new users who want to listen to Kanye don’t seem to use the service for their daily music consumption. 

They came for Kanye, but their experience with the service didn’t sell them on TIDAL.

We also see this effect if we look at the churn rate: the percentage of existing users who used the app in a given week, but didn’t use the app in the following week.

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Typically TIDAL sees a weekly churn rate of 20%25%. But this shoots up to 40%45% after TLoP, which further indicates a failure to hold on to these new users.

We calculated a series of metrics over the month preceding and following the the release of The Life of Pablo to examine the effect that Kanye had on the long term growth of TIDAL.

Downloads returned to pre-TLoP levels after the initial surge. There are still more users who’ve used the app in the last month or week, but their engagement metrics are not encouraging, All indicators of usage have deteriorated.


Consider the decrease in average days used per week from 4.19 to 2.78. Let’s assume that the 183,000 pre-LToP users continued to use the service the same 4.19 days a week post-LToP. This would imply that the 236,000 new users only use the service 1.69 days a week. To us, this seems like a strong indicator that new users don’t use the service outside of listening to Kanye—and probably have no intention to do so. 

One reason why is that a large percentage of TIDAL users also use another streaming service.

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With over 45% of TIDAL users also using Pandora or Spotify, new users will likely revert back to their preferred service once they get a new tune stuck in their head.

So, what will be the long term impact of Kanye West on TIDAL? It’s still too early to tell, but we built a simple model to project what will happen to TIDAL subscriber levels based on current levels of churn and user growth. 

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The results suggest that the entire effect of Kanye and The Life of Pablo could completely disappear within the next 3 months.  

While Kanye and The Life of Pablo rallied huge increases in downloads and users, our analysis indicates that the growth may be short lived.

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