TIDAL: Making Waves in the Music Industry

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Right as some of us are finally getting the hang of Spotify as our go-to music system, Jay-Z and friends decided to mix it up a bit. What is Tidal? On March 30th Jay-Z announced that he had bought, for a mere $56 billion dollars Aspiro, a Swedish tech company and used it to create Tidal, the newest music streaming business. And he’s not going it alone on this, top names including Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, Calivin Harris, Daft Punk, Jack White, Alicia Keys and Jason Aldean are all partners who are both morally and financially invested in the project. Tidal obviously is now entering a clash with Spotify, among other streaming sites. If you take a look at the site itself, it looks quite similar to what you see when you open your Spotify browser. You can look up music, browse playlists and make your own. However, it’s not the same. Tidal is owned by artists themselves which cuts out the middle man. This gives the artists significantly more support and makes the users pay for the music. To use Tidal you must, unlike Spotify or Pandora, pay a subscription fee. There are two types; Tidal Premium is offered at $9.99 a month and gives the listener solid sound quality and access to music along with videos and editorials by artists. Tidal HiFi gives music the highest sound quality, gives videos the highest definition along with the editorials. Why start this endeavor? (This is the most important part!) Jay-Z, along with many other artists today, have strong feelings that music is becoming less respected over time, and the industries like Spotify and Pandora are playing a supporting role in that devaluation by allowing listeners free access to music. Little bit of background, how do most music industries operate currently? Lets use Spotify as an example. Spotify claims to pay about 70% of their total revenue, derived from advertisements and subscription money, to rights holders. That money is distributed depending on the popularity of the music, then the label or publisher divides what they make as they see fit. So Spotify itself walks away with about 30% of the total revenue. However, as exemplified by Taylor Swift’s decision to pull off all her songs from Spottily, many artists don't think that this system is truly valuing their work.

“Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently”  ~ Taylor Swift

“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.” ~ Taylor Swift

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Jay-Z’s claim is that in the end, artists themselves, along with their writers, publishers etc. are getting a lot less money and a lot less say than they should from this system. So Tidal really isn't just a new music streaming system, its musicians attempt to revolt. Rather than taking their music away, the route taken by Tay Swift, Jay-Z is looking to present another option, a new idea -- this part is key. Tidal has been created in attempts to give artists work an inherent value. Obviously artists who are getting on board are not in desperate need of a little extra cash, which makes the message that more important. It’s not about the money, it’s about the quickly decreasing value placed on music these days and promoting a free trade system in which there is no profiting middle man.

“Music is … imagine your life without music. It’s a very valuable part of your life, and like I said, that’s why we got in this business. It seems to be going the other way. People are not respecting the music, and [are] devaluing it and devaluing what it really means. People really feel like music is free, but will pay $6 for water. You can drink water free out of the tap, and it’s good water. But they’re OK paying for it. It’s just the mind-set right now.” ~ Jay-Z

We have yet to find out how the music industry will respond to this type of uniformed movement against the current system. Many are deeming this system as set up for failure, saying Jay-Z has let the success get to his head. But he is quick to say Tidal is not about winning and loosing, or beating out other competition. It’s about bringing back the intrinsic value of music, it is about getting people talking about what is right. Obviously Tidal is not going to be a first choice for a lot of people considering the cost, and it’s definitely not the only option if you’re looking for a music outlet. However, it’s a new idea, and the fact so many big names got behind it must mean some thing. So, take it as you will. Whether Tidal succeeds or fails, it has raised awareness about a much broader, systemic issue about the modern music industry.

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Images from forbes.com and www.mirror.co.uk