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April 2, 2015


On Monday, Jay Z and a few of his friends—including the likes of Jack White, Madonna, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Arcade Fire—launched TIDAL: a high-fidelity music and video streaming service with a mission “to reestablish the value of music”.


The rise of streaming services like Spotify and Songza has revolutionized the way in which consumers listen to music, and in the process, has dealt a serious blow to album sales. Additionally, it has created a power struggle between different streaming services for the rights to the music of artists. Artists are paid each time their song is streamed. Though this amount is minimal (Spotify pays a fraction of a cent, $0.006-$0.008 per listen), it can add up for big name musicians. Just last week, Kendrick Lamar's new album broke a record and earned $1 million from its first day on the service.


In this already saturated market, Jay-Z promises to offer a bigger cut to artists and higher quality audio files to the masses. Unlike Spotify, there is no free-tier for Tidal.  It is $10 a month for a standard subscription, and $20 a month for TIDAL HiFi (which includes “Lossless High Fidelity sound quality”). This may put the service at a disadvantage, as of Spotify’s reported 60 million users, only 15 million are paying subscriptions.


Whether or not Tidal can change where artists put their music exclusively is an open debate. Spotify has already paid more than a billion dollars to artists in royalties, so if artists do get a better rate from Tidal, it is really going to have to get as many paying users on it as possible to make a go of it. The service currently has about 512,000 subscribers, but this number will likely grow with the heavy celebrity endorsements.


This poses a potential problem: Will each service start to offer different artists exclusively, in order to differentiate themselves from each other? —pretty much worse case scenario for music fans and streaming-service users.


Some of the artists signed on with Tidal, including Arcade Fire and Deadmau5, have received backlash for their involvement with the service. Arcade Fire asked fans to “show support” for the service on their Facebook page, causing many negative reactions that suggested the phrasing better suited a charitable endeavour as opposed to a for-profit business. Tidal has also received criticism for seemingly representing only “music’s 1%” — just helping the rich get even richer.


What do you think? Is Tidal’s mission a viable and justifiable one? Will you try it?

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