The much-anticipated Verzuz matchup between Anthony Hamilton & Musiq Soulchild did not live up to the hype of previous battles in the Verzuz franchise.  The fault does not appear to be about the technical issues (which are typical) or the artist’s appeal –  fans were buzzing for a Musiq and Anthony Hamilton matchup.  The fault lies squarely with the poorly executed rollout of a paid subscription model.   Without a tested and scalable revenue model, is this a bad omen for Timbaland and Swizz Beatz‘s $5 billion IPO of Trillerverz?

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The Anthony Hamilton & Swizz Beatz Verzuz Subscription Debacle

On the day of the highly anticipated Anthony Hamilton & Musiq Soulchild Verzuz matchup, fans were buzzing for the belated Valentine’s Day show and preparing to settle in to enjoy favorites from both artists who had been missing on the scene for years.  

The in-person show was already a success.  Despite Covid concerns still in the air – a sold out show made it clear fans were excited to see this Valentine’s Day showdown up close and personal.

Just hours before the event, an Instagram message from the official Verzuz account posted an announcement that Verzuz would now be available by subscription only via a “TrillerVerzPass” and offering fans a free trial:

To watch, sign up NOW for the #TrillerVerzPass (14-Day trial* included!! DON’T WAIT!!) LINK IN BIO!!!

The subscription, at $2.99 per month, promised to give fans access to Verzuz plus Trillerverz’s other content including boxing matches.

Immediately after the announcement, Verzuz was dragged on social media.  Fans of the celebrity battle show took aim directly at founders Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, scolding them for trying to make money off the community behind their success. 

The uproar continued for hours with fans stating outright that they would refuse to pay for the event and a free live event. 

Swizz Beatz informed the public in the last minute via IG that the event will in fact be free after all. Swizz assured fans he had nothing to do with the recent change saying he was “out of the country” when the decision was made.

However, the damage was already done.  The reputation of founders Swizz Beatz and Timbaland had soured with supporters.  And with fans confused and angry, the Anthony Hamilton Vs Musiq Soulchild Verzuz tanked.  Though official streaming numbers are not publicly available, the live audience during the event was significantly subdued in comparison to previous R&B Verzuz competitions and the trending conversation the next day was about fan disillusionment and calls to “defund” the platform that saved our sanity during the pandemic.  

The bigger question remains.  If this musical battle was a test to see fans’ reactions and appetite for a paid subscription model, is it safe to say Verzuz failed?  And with waning support from fans and a lack of a scalable paywall model, what impact will this have on Swizz and Timbaland’s $5 Billion IPO planned for this quarter?

Stay tuned for part 2.

Additional reporting by Aevum Callum, Daniel Jerkins, and Seeka Starsky.