The word of the day is TIDAL.
Last night, Jay Z, Madonna, Kanye West, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Nicki Minaj and about a billion other pop stars turned their social media accounts blue…err, cerulean really.
Why? Because TIDAL.
TIDAL is a new music streaming service. Like Spotify and Beats, it costs $9.99 a month, with a $19.99/month “HiFi” option for “lossless” sound.
The mission statement, according to the website, is to become “the first music streaming service that combines the best High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and expertly Curated Editorial.” Fine.
Jay Z, who bought the company earlier this month for $54 million, has banded together some of the industry’s biggest players to support today’s launch. (Notably missing from the TIDAL marketing takeover? Taylor Swift, who protested the concept of Spotify by taking her music offline late last year.)
Now, it’s no secret that almost no one buys music anymore — certainly not in physical form. Streaming services are quickly becoming the dominant method of legal music consumption, reflected in the fact that streaming is now used to measure sales on the official Billboard charts.
But here’s the biggest question: What makes TIDAL any different from the rest? What would compel a consumer to care enough to switch services, or join a new subscription service in the first place?
Jay Z is holding a press conference in a few hours to introduce TIDAL to the world, but as far as I can imagine, there’s really one advantage he could possibly pull off over Spotify, Beats, Pandora, Rdio and the ever-increasing amount of services crowding the market: Exclusives.
If RiRi decides to drop R8 exclusively on TIDAL, or if Kanye drops his Yeezus follow-up as a TIDAL-only stream, or if Beyoncé and Jay Z drop that rumored collaboration album (and yes, all of these things could happen at once!), the world will, presumably, flock. (Or…they’ll just wait the few minutes it takes for someone to rip the music and post it illegally on a forum.)
To me, at least right now, it feels like the energy spent gathering all of these superstars into one room is a wasted opportunity.
Rather than launching a brand new service, why not use this opportunity to “fix” the Spotify/Beats situation for a more fair distribution of royalties between the service, the record labels and the artists? Why not protest their own labels at first, who are reportedly raking in all the profits? There are, after all, over 40 million people already using Spotify today — 10 million of those being paying users. Does TIDAL really offer enough of an incentive to the consumer and a solution to the artist royalty distribution problem to make everyone want to jump ship? Or is this all just selfishness to start the Blue Ivy college fund?
Also, seriously: As such an outspoken advocate of protecting her music, why isn’t Taylor Swift participating in this TIDAL social media revolution? Her music is reportedly already on the service. So why wouldn’t she lend her voice to the cause? Seems fishy.
I’m highly skeptical, although eager to hear Jay Z’s reasoning behind creating a new platform beyond making money for a select group of millionaires. For now, I don’t see the point in prematurely putting down a credit card for something I know nothing about. (Then again, I did once pre-order Britney Jean.)
Nicki and Madonna do look like fierce boss bitches sitting next to each other in the hilariously dramatic TIDAL launch promotional clip below. And I’d like to say I trust Madonna’s opinion on the future of music, but she’s also spent the past few weeks fighting with a sock on Instagram.
If there’s this much of a marketing push behind TIDAL already, perhaps it will be enough to sway the market and begin a whole new chapter in (maybe fairer?) streaming. Or, it’ll just go the way of Ello.
In the words of the Legendary Miss Britney Spears, I guess we’ll just have to…
— Madonna (@Madonna) March 30, 2015