Jacob Rudman, a 32-year-old Long Island lawyer who attended a recent concert celebrating Tidal's one-million subscribers, was one of several thousand music lovers who poured into the Barclays Center eager to catch a glimpse of music's power couple, Jay Z and Beyonce.
As big of a fan of the couple as Rudman is, the attorney—who likes to use Tidal's streaming media competitor Pandora—confessed to being completely ignorant about the subscription music service created by Jay-Z and other mega-artists.
"I don't know what the hell it is," he told CNBC, shouting over thumping music that filled the corridors of the Brooklyn-based arena. He joked that it might have been the name of a musical group he'd never heard of.
Rudman's lack of awareness of Tidal — which Sean "Jay-Z" Carter created in March amid much fanfare — underscores why some industry watchers and music lovers remain skeptical of the platform's staying power, an endeavor that, thus far, has defied the golden touch of its music mogul owners.
Even as Tidal assembled a wave of celebrities at the Barclay's Center on Wednesday, the service remains dogged by skepticism about whether it can go toe-to-toe with competitors like Apple Music, Rhapsody, Pandora and Spotify.
When Jay Z, Beyonce, Madonna and several other megawatt artists took over Tidal earlier this year, it was seen by some as an industry game changer, one that would give artists greater equity in the business and more of the royalties.
However, some say the owners appear to be facing a tough lesson in running a startup in the hot yet mercurial technology sector: star power doesn't always equal success. This is especially true when you're competition is Apple, Google and Spotify, and music consumers still insist on receiving at least some services for either free or cheap.
"No one is going to join a site just because famous artists own it for the same reason that no label can succeed selling music from its own website," said Peter Alhadeff, music and business management professor at Berklee College of Music.