Shawn Carter--better known as Jay-Z--once rapped, “My favorite hue is Jay-Z blue.” That preference may change if his next venture is as successful as he anticipates.
To refer to Carter as a rapper is uninformed at this point. Sure, that was the first phase of his career, but no one calls his friend Warren Buffett an 'investment salesman' anymore. Carter is an entrepreneur and an investor. Need evidence? Look no further than his first music venture: Facing rejection from the music industry's most venerated record labels two decades ago, Carter ended up starting his own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, along with Damon Dash. He would go on to sell over 100 million record over the course of his career.
Carter's most recent move--to buy and relaunch the music streaming service Tidal--may be his most ambitious yet. It comes at a time when the service's primary rival, Spotify, is on the heels of a rumored $14 billion acquisition. The music industry giant boasts 15 million active listeners, compared to Tidal's existing 35,000 paying users.
But the momentum has shifted literally overnight. Some of the world's most celebrated musicians--Taylor Swift, to name one--had already shunned Spotify's free, ad-supported business model. Now others have gotten on board with Carter, turning their Twitter avatars turquoise Monday in support of Tidal's relaunch.
Together, we can turn the tide and make music history. Start by turning your profile picture blue. #TIDALforALL-- NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) March 30, 2015
Artists like Kanye West, Calvin Harris, Madonna, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, and (of course) Beyonce are joining in, tweeting the #TidalForAll hashtag and removing their likenesses in exchange for the new hue of Jay-Z blue.
For all intents and purposes, this may be the beginning of a coup. With this much critical mass on day one, artists are likely to follow suit and accept the terms of Tidal's (reportedly superior) payment terms. Tidal truly has a chance to end Spotify's run of dominance in the music streaming market. Let's face it: We won't be subscribing to Spotify any longer if all that's left is unearthed talent.
As for Carter: It shouldn't be surprising that he's the one leading this charge--he's been preparing for it for twenty years. Carter has amassed a portfolio that includes Rocawear, the chain of 40/40 Clubs, a liquidated interest in the Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn's Barclays Center, J Hotels, Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG), Roc Nation Sports, and Armand de Brignac champagne. And the key to success for each item in Carter's portfolio is its synergy with his other ventures. Two years ago, All-Star baseball player Robinson Cano was first major signing for Carter's Roc Nation Sports management company. Now Cano is one of Tidal's most prominent advocates. As Carter's star-studded Rolodex has expanded, so has the lineup of people who can throw their weight behind the rest of his ventures.
Tidal has re-emerged at the right time, and now there's a very real possibility Carter will use it to revolutionize an entire industry. If he does, he will continue along a path that few in business have achieved--and he's done it all without a diploma.
Carter has always been an entrepreneur at heart. With Tidal, now he has a chance to be one of the best.