“Streaming is the future of music”. This statement has been on the tongue of many in the music industry for a few years now, and it is becoming more prevalent with every passing day. This is the reason why companies like Spotify have come into the success that it sees now. Spotify is a music streaming service with a premium subscription for those who want to take their experience offline and ad-free. It is available in 58 global markets and has over 30 million songs. Every day, over 20,000 songs are added to that list, allowing users from around the world to have an endless selection filling their ears. Over 60 million people use Spotify and 20% of them, roughly 15 million, pay the subscription amount. Seems like an unstoppable juggernaut right? Not to the ears of American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur, Jay Z.
Earlier this year Jay Z bought Aspiro, a Swedish/Norwegian public media company. He transformed the company into TIDAL, also known as TIDALHiFi, a subscription based music streaming service. Its goal is to surpass Spotify and all other companies to become the world leading music streaming service by offering higher definition sound quality, higher royalties to the artists, exclusive content, and in-depth playlists created by the artists themselves. The issue that many people have with using this amazing product is that it costs $19.99 a month. Below, we break down the list of features which could make this company either rise to glory or fall to ashes.
TIDAL’s ground-breaking sound is the first thing that separates it from the competition. The program uses lossless data compression which allows the data to be perfectly reconstructed from the compressed data unlike the music that Spotify uses, only allowing reconstruction to a certain level. This is not to say Spotify’s program doesn’t play good music, it just does not hold the quality that TIDAL holds. However, unless a listener has a sharp ear for hearing differences between every instrument and beat used, it is not a recognizable or substantial difference. To those whose ears have picked up the difference, is it worth the price?
Higher Payout to Artists
There are no set numbers available to the public to display the amount that artists get paid for their songs on Spotify or TIDAL. The particulars are determined by the company, the artists, and their record labels. TIDAL has just two subscription tiers, and neither is free. The first, $9.99-per-month, grants access to standard definition audio quality already offered by sites like Spotify. The second, $19.99-per-month, pays for the audio quality given by the high definition lossless data compression. TIDAL claims that these prices are in place so that they can offer higher royalty rates to the artists, meaning, they can only pay their artists if people pay for the subscription. Will the inability to listen for free hinder your eagerness to join?
Three days ago, Jay Z performed his concert B-Sides and streamed it live exclusively for TIDAL subscribers. The demand was so great that he scheduled another show for both May 16th, and 17th. The site also includes videos that give a firsthand look at the training process for celebs like fighter Miguel Cotto, as well as the game-day prep for baseball player Robinson Cano. While this may persuade many to open their wallets for access, you can’t help but wonder how long it will take for the content to be leaked to free streaming sites.
Unfortunately for artists these days, very few things are exclusive for long. Take for example, Wu-Tang Clan’s $5 million LP, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The album went on auction this year with one single copy and has a 88 year copyright before being sold commercially. It is very likely that the public will be able to hear it before the eighth decade, knowing how die-hard Wu-Tang Clan fans are. If such rare and expensive music doesn’t reach its goal for exclusivity, how would TIDAL convince itself to stay immune to the same hacks?
Aside from the higher definition audio and the exclusive content, what really separates TIDAL from its competition is the quality of its playlists. A user can find a range from vastly broad to oddly specific groupings. For example there is something called “Freak Scene: American Underground 1980-89” which creates a timeline between American punk and early indie rock, and another that is made up of albums with painter H.R. Giger artwork as their cover art. They also have playlists curated by mainstream artists such as The Dream. This allows people to connect with a musical history that they have never experienced before as well as enjoy the stuff that we all know and love.
The future of TIDAL’s success will come in time and in numbers. Right now, it’s success is dependent on your choice. Given enhanced sound, better financial support to artists, exclusive content, and unique playlists, will you offer up the monthly stipend for TIDAL? There are people who are raving for it, and people who are raging against it. What will you decide?