Spotify may be in trouble with the recent arrival of a new competitor in the music streaming marketplace. Tidal—a rebranded version of Scandinavian streaming service WiMP—is under new ownership. The service is poised to truly shake things up. A star-studded cast lines the Tidal boardroom. Headed by Jay Z, Tidal includes the likes of Kanye West, Madonna and Jack White, making this company one of the first music distribution outlets to be run by the artists themselves. Tidal is also the first to try to change the attitudes of consumers, making a lot of promises to reimagine how music streaming works—but this concept does not come without strings attached.
Tidal is high-quality streaming beyond anything most listeners have heard before––the company promises lossless streams. Tidal would be one of the closest options listeners have to being in the studio during a recording session, all without having to leave their bedrooms. This quality comes at a cost, however.
Tidal charges $9.99 a month for a standard subscription which includes SD music and HD videos, or $19.99 a month for HD music and videos. This is a big bump from free streaming services like Pandora, Spotify and Songza. According to Jay Z, there is a very specific reason for these prices.
In Jay Z’s opinion, modern society has completely devalued music—a sentiment that those following the Taylor Swift versus Spotify debate recognize. It seems like artists are fed up with being taken advantage of by streaming services that only give mere fractions of pennies per play back to the performers. By charging so much for the use of their service, the artists backing Tidal don’t just take the stand that they should be valued more—they are also standing up for their opportunity to make money again.
It’s no secret that most musicians don’t make a lot of money nowadays. There are exceptions, of course—several of whom were mentioned earlier in this article. Still, if you’re a band, chances are you’re probably making just enough to get by—even if you’re moderately famous. Tidal is hoping to change that, at least slightly. If the service can just give a little bit more money per play to the smaller bands that stream through its site, then we might actually see an increase in our societal valuation of music.
That is, of course, assuming Tidal follows through on its promise. It has staked a claim to a noble goal. So far, however, most of the artists who have signed up are the ones who don’t need help.
Artists like Lily Allen and Mumford and Sons have made open statements condemning Tidal. Mumford and Sons banjoist Winston Marshall actually went so far as to call the backers of Tidal “new school fucking plutocrats.” Mumford and Sons lead singer Marcus Mumford went on to condemn alignment with Tidal as “tribal.” Mumford also claimed that picking one particular streaming service limits expansion for smaller bands by reducing advertisement for their live shows—which he believes is where bands now make their money.
Still, Tidal is just starting out. There’s time for it to accomplish its lofty goals. If it does, I, for one, will be making the switch.