Tidal vs Spotify – Which is music to your ears?

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.

Tidal launch

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.

In short:

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.

Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is a journalist, avid traveller and all-round bargain hunter. If there's an online coupon code, deal or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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9 Responses to Tidal vs Spotify – Which is music to your ears?

  1. Default Gravatar
    Graham | June 21, 2016

    Thank you for the response. I worked out that the data usage on Tidal lossless would be 400 Mb an hour based on previous information I have read. OK, Knowing this, are there means on Tidal where I can listen offline…or save a favourite piece of music. As my data allowance is so slow by world standards, I will not be able to listen at will; I will have to be prudent in my time allocation. Where can I find more information about TIDAL..? There seems to be little information. So question is SAVING MUSIC FILES. Hi Fi… I can use Spotify at 320 Kbps, so why wouldn’t I use Tidal for hi fi?

    • Staff
      Stephanie | June 21, 2016

      Hi Graham,

      Yes, Tidal does offer an Offline Mode similar to Spotify. This will involve having to download the music files, which may in turn use up your data. You can find more information about Offline Mode here.

      A good place to start for more information about Tidal is its FAQ section, which can give you a better idea of its subscription services and quality options.

      As to your last question: Tidal prides itself in providing high quality music. To achieve this, it doesn’t compress its HiFi music files but instead keeps them in large FLAC files. To download or stream these, faster data speeds are required.

      I hope this has helped,


    • Default Gravatar
      Graham | June 21, 2016

      I must be stupid or marginalised because I have a Macbook pro, and not a tablet or a bloody iPhone as I cannot see any “offline” switch on any page of anything on TIDAL. Where is it? As I have only 40 GB a month, I’d like to save favourites in hi-fi definition. What you as consultants need to realise, is that people choose TIDAL because of high definition streaming, otherwise Spotify or Pandora fill the requirements. So please don’t ask me to look up FAQs as they never seem to have the answer for me… any medium or any site. WHERE IS THE OFFLINE switch? And it is not under the album name.

    • Staff
      Stephanie | June 21, 2016

      Hi Graham,

      Thank you for your reply.

      Just to clarify, you have contacted, which is a comparison website and not Tidal itself.

      From what I can see Tidal has yet to implement an Offline Mode button for PCs or Macs and is currently only offered on iPhones and iPads.



    • Default Gravatar
      Graham | June 21, 2016

      Thanks, Stephanie,
      It is illuminating to observe how these sites operate. I am an observer of political systems, and most politicians avoid answering tricky questions, such as “where is the offline mode” as it puts them in an embarrassing position of having to explain themselves or of putting them in an inferior position to their rivals. TIDAL hasn’t come to terms with the fact that they can’t yet set up services such as “offline mode” and prefer to keep us customers in the dark. I appreciate your work Stephanie and now ask… Have you any idea when Tidal may set up offline for MacBook computers as many customers will not use Tidal if they can’t save music as the expense is too high to keep listening to favourite tracks. I want HI-FI and love the extra dimension lossless wave files can provide. I have been a recording engineer much of my life and love reality in music reproduction. SO… do you think Tidal might add lossless to their MacBook apps?

    • Staff
      Stephanie | June 21, 2016

      Hi Graham,

      Obviously I can’t speak for Tidal in terms of what its plans for the streaming service are in the future. However the lack of Offline Mode for PCs and Macs has been raised by reviewers, so it may be something Tidal might consider offering in the future. Again, I can’t say for sure.

      I’d think the same would ring true about lossless for their MacBook apps. It’s a problem users have raised but not something Tidal has made a move to amend with their program yet.


    • Default Gravatar
      Graham | June 21, 2016

      Hi Stephanie,
      You are very thorough in your approach to your job. Cheers. Graham.

  2. Default Gravatar
    Graham | June 16, 2016

    I cannot get any information about data usage and data speeds required to get Tidal. I am annoyed that this data is never published. please me know as my speed will be 20 mpbs in a month or so and an allowance of 40 G a month.

    • Staff
      Stephanie | June 21, 2016

      Hi Graham,

      Data usage and data speeds will depend on the sound quality you choose with Tidal. This is as follows:

      HiFi – Lossless FLAC:
      16bit / 44.1 KHz 1411Kbps FLAC Files on average will consume about 10MB of data per minute of content.
      4 minute track ~ 40 MB of Data that is either used when streaming, or storage space required

      High – AAC 320 Kbps:
      AAC files found under the high setting on average will consume about 2.4 MB of data per minute of content.
      4 minute track ~ 9.6 MB of data that is either used when streaming, or storage space required

      Normal – AAC+ 96 Kbps:
      AAC+ tracks found in the normal setting on average will consume about 720 KB of data per minute of content
      4 minute track ~ 2.88 MB of data that is either used when streaming, or storage space required.

      I hope this has helped,


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