Within a plethora of methods that we have to get music out, in a rather grandiose unveiling, Jay-Z announced Tidal. This is a streaming service that allows the consumer to stream lossless files and high-quality video for a $20 dollar fee. It’s also billed as the music service controlled by the musicians themselves, totting co-ownership from the likes of Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire, Beyonce, and Calvin Harris just to name a few. As I was viewing the press conference where many “A list” artists signed the declaration to the service, many questions ran through my head. Is this just a microcosm of the “big” major labels in streaming form? How does the “little guy” or the acoustic artist who puts his song on Bandcamp for $1.99 factor into this new phase? Why am I not enamored and hypnotized by the commercials and artists? Why is Kanye West still mad?
Let’s get down to the lossless files. There’s no doubt that musicians are tired of hearing their music in a compressed and rather loud format. Take a listen to Metallica’s Death Magnetic album. Everything is mixed to be a loud mess and takes away from what is a pretty decent collection of work (no, we won’t bring up St. Anger). To the untrained ear, can you really detect the difference from the lossless format that Tidal provides from the 320 kb Spotify counterpart that is ten dollars cheaper? Unless you have headphones or speakers that really pick up on the quality difference – it’s a hard sell.
Taking a look at the artists that are involved, I was excited to see Daft Punk in all their space-aged helmet splendor participate in an active way, but is this enough for me to switch to the service? How is this service not already assisting those artists who are well off monetarily? By the figures, Spotify pays out 70% of total revenue which was $1 billion dollars in total to the music industry. Does that go to the artists or the actual labels in general? It’s hard for me to think that this platform is “for the artist” when the lowest net worth of artists involved (J. Cole) is $8 million dollar. Madonna has an $800 million net worth – music should not be for free, but perhaps artists should come together to adapt and change the musical structure that is unable to keep up with the technology it constantly finds itself at war with. Perhaps, include the artists who can’t afford their own platform and live off streaming. It kind of looked like the wealthy waging war to get a bigger piece of the pie as if they were lobbying for the record companies themselves.
With higher quality files begets the need to consume data, and data plans which are restricted at best are going to have to take this into consideration. There’s no doubt that streaming an album full of lossless files is going to send your phone bill into the stratosphere without wi-fi. Those commercials about cutting your phone bill in half are going to be replaced with an ad of consumers diving into a pool of data bills like Scrooge Mcduck in Ducktales. Tidal’s calling card, which is its quality, is already ten dollars more and is going to cost you more actually using the service as well. This does not really contribute to the Robin Hood-like mantra that Tidal is trying to invoke.
I mean, there are some good things that may come of this. I love that artists would like to take control of their mediums and creative unique experiences for music listeners – just not looking like the actual suits they are appearing to break away from. We don’t know the actual breakdown of royalties or the capacity that everyone is involved in with the service. Once those figures come out, it will be interesting to see if there is an actual advantage. In a world where Spotify exists and Apple is working on its Beats Music equivalent, it’s hard to see where Tidal changes the game in an internet world where nothing is exclusive. Perhaps what these streaming services need is to do what they ask consumers to do – listen.
This guest blog was brought to you by Murjani “M.J.” Rawls, fast-rising editor and photographer at Mind Equals Blown, staff writer at Big City Thoughts Magazine and photographer for Under The Gun Review. Check out all of those sites to see more of his writing and be sure to visit his official photography site to see more of his portfolio.
To learn more about the artist-owned streaming service Tidal and what it has to offer, check out their official website right here.