The music industry is abuzz with Jay-Z’s launch of his new music streaming app, Tidal–the first of its kind to be artist-owned. Music icons wasted no time offering their full support for the endeavor–they claim corporation-owned streaming services offer little revenue to the artists, only low payouts divided between artist and label, the news of which clouded the internet when Taylor Swift took her music off Spotify late last year.
In 2014, streaming revenue from services like Spotify and Pandora overtook CD sales for the first time, ringing up $1.87 billion in revenue. ~Forbes
And I applaud Jay-Z and his fellow artists for taking the initiative to start a streaming service independent of a corporation; it seems only logical that access to an artist’s music should go through the artist him or herself. But it’s difficult to comprehend how much money artists make off streaming services when the public is only ever exposed to them in $70 million dollar mansions, in $250,000 outfits, and in $20,000 seats at a concert.
It obscures any injustice, if one is present.
The artists claim a devaluation of art, but as Tidal charges $9.99/month for a basic service and $19.99/month for a premium service, it appears they are less concerned with art and more concerned with excessive profit. Higher prices will not add value to watered-down musicality, and if a label has guided an artist to the multi-platinum success supporters of Tidal can boast, then it deserves a share of the profits–and not at the consumer’s expense.
Jay Z’s posse may declare #TIDALforALL, but with a premium account priced $10 higher than Spotify’s premium subscription–not to mention that Spotify offers a free verson–the app is anything but far-reaching. Granted, some high-priced, music-based technology has risen to mainstream popularity, namely Beats headphones, but as stars continue to promote themselves as elitists, they isolate the fan bases that bought their music when they were still “on the rise” and attended their concerts when they lip-synced songs that somebody else wrote.
Watch the initial commercial for Tidal.
The record labels may have created the celebrities’ images, but we made them cultural icons. Business Insider quotes Madonna, whom Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Sheila Raghavendran has christened the Queen of Flop, as saying, “‘Somewhere-Somehow-Someone has to pay. There is always an exchange. #truth. #tidal.'” And, of course, payment is inescapable. We, the consumers, are not unwilling to pay. But punishing fan bases with a $240/yr. music subscription may be going too far. Perhaps the anger and aloofness they channel in an ad where they cannot deign to speak could be better directed toward Spotify itself, the reigning giant of music streaming. The stars haven’t seemed to realize that Spotify would be useless if they followed Taylor Swift’s lead and that the corporation may be able to negotiate to appease music’s heavy hitters.
But Jay-Z is past negotiating: he instead chose to buy Tidal for $56 million dollars. While its marketing is ill-planned, I hope that these artists can take full ownership for their work (and give due credit to all behind-the-scenes masterminds–not just the face on the record). They continue to differentiate themselves from Spotify via an exclusive set of new music available on Tidal only, including songs by Beyoncé and Rihanna, as well as high-resolution music videos and lossless sound quality. We are supposed to be able to hear music “the way the artist intended.”
Watch Tidal explain lossless sound quality.
It remains to be seen whether or not this quality will transcend technology disparities and preserve the artist’s intent without top-of-the-line studio equipment. Something tells me earbuds and a smartphone, as the most common form of the on-the-go listening, can’t do the trick. I have not, however, yet taken advantage of Tidal’s free trial–the only free aspect of it. I look forward to hearing the sound quality for myself and discerning whether the videos are artistic and meaningful or thinly-veiled sex. (I fear I may already know the answer.) At the end of my allotted 30 days, I may have a new appreciation for the app, but even if Tidal is a superior music streaming service, it can’t compete with Spotify until the service targets not only music gurus but the general fanbase–cheapskates included.
For a full review of Tidal’s capabilities, click here.