Spotify’s new rival, Tidal, is here. But is it really a match for the online streaming giant that you’re currently listening to? Like, right now.
Big musicians relaunching rival music-driven platforms. It’s not the first time this has happened – remember when Justin Timberlake tried to help relaunch Myspace after Facebook had already taken over the world? This time Jay Z (alongside stakeholders like Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Jack White, Kanye West, Madonna, Usher and Deadmau5) have invested in online streaming platform, Tidal.
And they’re saying it’s “the beginning of the new world.” (According to Kanye West, if that wasn’t obvious.)
What is Tidal?
Essentially, Tidal is the first ever artist-owned, global music and entertainment platform. In its catalogue are 25 million tracks and 75,000 music videos. The whole shebang was acquired when Jay Z purchased Aspiro, the Swedish company that originally operated Tidal, earlier this the year.
Where all the artists come in is not in purchasing Aspiro and Tidal, but in featuring on the platform. This means that they have some sort of equity in the platform and in a way, makes them part-owners.
What’s everyone saying?
There’s a lot of hate going around toward Tidal, and it was only launched on March 30. It could be the way that the artists treated the launch, holding a conference for the media in New York, and claiming it to be all sorts of life-changing, and all sorts of money pocketing for the artists.
But are the artists justified in saying that it’s all that Jay-Z jazz?
All the artists at the Tidal press conference. If there was a best dressed contest, Rihanna and Deadmau5 would tie for first.
What does Tidal have that Spotify doesn’t?
- Special content: Special (but not exclusive) music content will be given to subscribers. At the moment, this includes: Daft Punk’s Electronic film, footage of Alicia Key’s Set The World On Fire Tour, and other media the ‘stakeholders’ wish to release to the platform.
- Artist control: One of the goals for Tidal is that artist control will be returned, railing against the use of music as a marketing or advertising tool. And in an age when artists are battling free and pirated downloads of their work, this platform will empower them financially for the streaming of the work.
- Better sound quality: ...Or so they claim. Again, there’s been a lot of backlash towards this. The platform promises to provide the best High Fidelity sound quality and Hi Definition music videos with full offline capabilities. This might be true, but some have claimed that the difference in audio quality is nothing life-changing.
How does Tidal stack up against Spotify?
- High quality audio: Extreme audiophiles will love and appreciate this.
- Offline accessibility: Listen to the music you love, whenever you want.
- Exclusives: Word is top-tier artists like Kanye West might release their music exclusively through Tidal because of his stake in the company.
- Artist control: Bite back at illegal streaming, and pay the artist what they deserve for the music you listen to.
- Free 30-day trial: Like Spotify, Tidal also offers a free 30 day trial of its services.
- Free streaming: You can stream all artists and playlists offered for free – however, you will have to plough your ears through some advertising every now and again unless you pay for an ad-free subscription.
- Less data usage: When compared with Tidal, Spotify uses less data in its high-quality streaming mode than Tidal does in high-fidelity. Of course, to avoid this with Tidal you could stream in a lower quality by allowing your device to optimise audio quality.
- Offline accessibility: Listen to the music you love, whenever you want - but only when you have Spotify Premium.
- Price: Spotify Premium is slightly less than Tidal's subscription at $11.99 per month.
- Free 30-day trial: Like Tidal, Spotify also offers a free 30-day trial of their service.
- No free streaming: Tidal is all about empowering and giving back to the artist, so there’s is a subscription-only service.
- Price: Compared to Spotify, Tidal is slightly more expensive. Subscriptions start at US$9.99 per month (approx. AUD$12.95) and go up to US$19.99 per month (approx. $25.90).
- Artist pay rate: One of the biggest backlashes is that Tidal only works for the big, rich artists and not the up-and-comers. Being a hierarchical pay scheme means the rich get a bigger cut than the smaller players.
- No Taylor Swift: Some might consider this a pro, but whatever, we love our T-Swift and miss being able to listen to her full albums on Spotify.
- They only pay the artist what they have to: This is how artists are being cannibalised. Because all terms and agreements are negotiated by record labels, collectives and copyright boards, platforms like Spotify only need to be what has been negotiated by a representative. Not by the artist personally.
The pyramid of pay
One to the biggest backlashes Tidal is receiving is in their business model, which turns the artist into an owner. The bigger your name and presence, the greater your equity and return.
At present, Tidal revolves around 16 “top-tier” artists (founders) who will receive an equal amount from Tidal in what can be considered a hierarchical pyramid of pay. The next tier, or “round” as Jay-Z calls them, will receive an equal amount, but how much less, is still unclear. Neither is how many rounds there will be.
Remember: all pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others.
The Question Is: Will You Make A Change?
It’s tough knowing so early in the game whether Tidal will really benefit your favourite artists in the way you want them too. It’s also tough knowing if Tidal really is better a better quality option for you than Spotify, but ultimately time will tell.
In the meantime, here's what the Twitterwise is saying:
FYI - here's what we learned from referencing Madonna with the Illuminati...
...It's a great way to get a Tweet back from the Queen of Pop.
If you’re willing to pay a subscription fee to access special / exclusive content, give your favourite artist the pay they deserve for the music you receive, and are that much pickier about sound quality, Tidal just might be your thing.
If you’d prefer free streams (with ads) for slightly less quality that pays the artists what’s been contracted, and not what they could earn on their own terms, then keep Spotifying away.