Kanye West. Jay Z. Beyonce. Nicki Minaj. Rihanna. Those names alone might sound like a festival’s list of dream acts for their line up. If you tuned into the Tidal Conference on Monday night though it all seemed like an illuminati meeting more than anything, hell, there was even a moment where each artist signed a piece of paper to show their dedication, albeit with ink and not their blood.
Let’s clear up something first: what is Tidal? Tidal is a music streaming service, similar to the likes of Spotify and Deezer, which is owned by hip-hop giant Jay Z who purchased the company for $56 million dollars. The service isn’t the first of its kind though Tidal claims that it’s unique for two reasons.
Firstly it’s owned by the artists. This actually makes sense I suppose, Spotify has been under extreme scrutiny for paying artists a measly amount of money compared to how often their music is streamed. Incase you didn’t know, Spotify claims to have paid over $1 billion since its launch in 2008, at $0.007 a play. So a song would have to be played around 100 times to reach the iTunes retail price of a song. Artists haven’t taken kindly to this, all you have to do is look at pop queen Taylor Swift who controversially pulled her entire music library off the music streaming service last year following the release of her critically acclaim 1989. On its first week alone, the album sold 1 million copies and has became one of the best selling albums of the last year, selling more than 4 million copies since it’s release last October.
Secondly it provides lossless music quality at 1411kbps compared to Spotify’s 320kbps, something that Tidal has been bragging about to try and stand out from the crowd. The only fault with this is you’ll literally not know the difference between the two. There’s a sound test on their site and I tried it out and I can’t for the life of me point out anything significantly different, not enough to make me pay £20 a month for. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one of the major criticisms of Tidal. Actually there’s a few reason why Tidal isn’t as perfect as it seems.
First of all Tidal costs £20 a month for “lossless quality”, £10 if you just want standard. There’s no ad sponsored free tier, something that has riled some folk as Spotify has this option which may account for it’s large membership. Secondly, like I stated before, the lossless quality will not be noticed by the average music listener. You’ll need other music programs and peripherals like expensive headphones to notice this. I’m not saying there isn’t people who won’t enjoy the higher quality but the fact is you’re going to be spending more money than you’d think. On top of that if you’re out and about you can think again about using Tidal. An average lossless quality album stream will come up to around 400mb so if you’re on a contract that only allows 5GB, you’ll be struggling to play 10 whole albums a month on the go and that’s assuming there the usual 12 track length.
The real problem with Tidal is that it claims to be something that will change the face of music, so much so you’d be forgiven for thinking that the conference was to announce the second coming of Jesus Christ. At the end of the day,if this group of musicians with a combined wealth of $2.7 billion really cared about the quality of music, they wouldn’t be investing in “lossless” quality streaming which, by the way, would be CD quality. Instead, they would release their catalogues on analogue via vinyl. I was disappointed to see Jack White, someone who is very enthusiastic about records, associating himself with Tidal as I was to see some of my other favourite acts signing up for nothing but more money.
And that’s the real problem. As much as these artists will deny it, Tidal is just to make the millionaires richer at the expense of isolating music fans who can’t afford it. A sad week for music.