Your Free Month Of Tidal Is Up, What Are You Going To Do?

Written By Sam Murphy on 04/29/2015
Tidal

Image: Capital Xtra

One month ago Jay Z, joined by the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Madonna and Daft Punk, launched Tidal, a streaming service that bragged high-quality audio, exclusive content and a raft of high-profile owners who could afford its $20 a month subscription. It all sounded great at the start. Jay Z gushed about the large royalties going to artists, the high-quality sound and content exclusive to Tidal but its fortunes turned pretty quickly.

With the world's biggest musicians all owning a streaming service, it begged the question - what could possibly go wrong? Well a lot apparently. Tidal has received a lot of press over the last month but not a lot of it has been good. Musicians not involved in the project have come out in droves to criticise the price and exclusivity of it while the app itself has dropped out of the top 700 on iTunes.

There are a number of benefits to Tidal. Jay Z tweeted that Tidal pays a 75% royalty rate to artists which, if true, is fantastic. It also does have great sound when played in hi-fi mode. And it does, unlike Spotify, have Taylor Swift, apart from her most recent record, 1989.

If you signed up for Tidal right from the get-go you would have received a free month subscription. That month is now up and you're going to have to fork out your $20 soon. Are you going to stick around? We've compiled a few thoughts to help you.

Here's What Artists Are Saying

Grimes
Grimes is one of the few artists that has been complimentary about Tidal. A few days ago she posted an instagram of a screenshot of Jay Z's tweet along with a comment that read:

"Mad respect for tidal!! I literally know musicians who live in cars and storage spaces etc. And I know some pretty popular musicians who still struggle to make ends meet. Unless artists have a popular live show there aren’t a lot of income streams available. People have characterized tidal negatively but I promise it’s 100% artist friendly, and fan friendly since yall have the option to pay the same rate as other streaming respect to everyone involved for doing the right thing for struggling artists – this kind of thing is so important, especially for indie music! PS I AM SIGNED TO 4AD!! The misconception that I am not an independent artist anymore is incorrect, i can speak as an independent artist here. Roc nation manages me, I’m not signed to them nor do I have any investment in tidal, nor did anyone ask me to say this. Ps to everyone who buys music respect! Glad to hear many of u buy music rather than stream which is the best way to support smaller artists! ^_^ and also, for those who can’t afford streaming or buying music, I do not judge anyone for that! This is a suggestion, not a demand, in sorry it has created so much anger amongst yall"

The comment has since been deleted.

A post shared by Grimezsz (@grimes) on

Marcus Mumford
The frontman of Mumford & Sons says he never would've been part of the project because he doesn't want to be "tribal." In an interview with The Daily Beast he said, "I think smaller bands should get paid more for it. Bigger bands have other ways of making money, so I don’t think you can complain. When they say it’s artist-owned, it’s owned by those rich, wealthy artists... I don’t want to align myself with Spotify, Beats, Tidal, or whatever. We want people to listen to our music in their most comfortable way, and if they’re not up for paying for it, I don’t really care."

It seems he's mirroring many people's feelings about Tidal which is they "don't really care."

Lily Allen
Lily Allen has probably been one of the most vocal about Tidal. In a series of tweets she said, "unless TIDAL start sending everyone good quality headphones, the resolution thing is kinda redundant." You've got to hand it to her, it's a good point.

She also wrote, "i think i may have spoken too soon, and that there is a lot to celebrate where TIDAL is concerned."

Ben Gibbard
Death Cab for Cutie frontman, Ben Gibbard has criticised the streaming service for only appealing to mainstream artists. In an interview with The Daily Beast Gibbard said, "If I had been Jay Z, I would have brought out 10 artists that were underground or independent and said, 'These are the people who are struggling to make a living in today’s music industry. Whereas this competitor streaming site pays this person 15 cents for X amount of streams, that same amount of streams on my site, on Tidal, will pay that artist this much.' I think they totally blew it by bringing out a bunch of millionaires and billionaires and propping them up onstage and then having them all complain about not being paid."

Madonna
Madge is obviously going to praise the streaming service as she is one of the 16 artist-owners. She took to Instagram to defend the service against the backlash writing, "Tidal is not about consumption and greed! Its about protecting an art-form that is beloved to all of us MUSIC". She continued, "If you refer to Tidal as Illuminati, you are paying us the highest of compliments. As I've stated before it is another name for "The Enlightened Ones" a group of scientists, philosophers and artists that emerged after the dark ages. They changed and shaped the world for the better! Do the research and find out for yourself!"

Kanye West
Reports surfaced last week that Kanye West had deleted the Tidal blue as his Twitter picture and deleted tweets about the streaming service. True as it may be the same week a piece also appeared in Paper Magazine where the rapper defended Tidal fervently. Like Madonna, he touched on the illuminati comments saying, "I heard a comment -- a joke -- about the Tidal press conference being an Illuminati moment. If there was actually an Illuminati, it would be more like the energy companies. Not celebrities that gave their life to music and who are pinpointed as decoys for people who really run the world."

On 22nd April West tweeted this:

Sounds like he's sticking with Tidal. We may also take this opportunity to note that the reports about him ditching Tidal are ridiculous. Many of the 16 artists involved in Tidal changed their profile picture to blue when Tidal was launched and gradually went back to their original after a few weeks. For some reason Kanye also deleted his tweets about Tidal which is what sparked a media barrage.  He hasn't spoken out as to why he did that.

Steve Albini
Legendary music producer and engineer Steve Albini commented about the sound quality aspect of Tidal. He told Vulture, "If you want your music to play at the push of a button, convenience is going to trump sound quality 100 percent of the time."

Jay Z
As the owner of Tidal Jay Z has said a lot. Most of that is here on his Twitter. He took to Twitter over the weekend to defend Tidal with a series of #TidalFacts tweets. Time fact-checked the tweets and found that most of them are true.


Also, for those of you who were wondering, Jay Z did actually send his cousin to Nigeria as noted. Complex did a little investigative digging here.

Here's What You Might Get If You Stick Around

Nicki Minaj Material
We're not exactly sure what, but Nicki Minaj is preparing to drop something exclusively on Tidal. She tweeted this:

And then tweeted this:

A Beyoncé and Jay Z Album
This one might not happen, but we're hoping that it does. DJ Skee (yeah, us either) has said that the couple are nearing completion of a collaboration album and will be a Tidal exclusive when it's released.

#R8
There are no reports regarding this one but Rihanna has already dropped American Oxygen exclusively to Tidal so it would make sense if she also dropped the whole album on Tidal. The risk of doing this would be that less people would hear it immediately and it would make its way onto torrent sites immediately but that's the risk you take if you're going to fully dedicate yourself to Tidal.

Plenty More From Tidal's Owners
So far we've already gotten exclusives from Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Jack White, Daft Punk, Madonna and more. Surely Tidal have a strategy that goes further than just its first month so it would make sense to think that this content is going to keep coming for the next few months at least. One thing to consider though is if you're going to release something exclusively to Tidal, you're really not looking for it to chart very high. Rihanna released her single American Oxygen to iTunes the week after it went up exclusively on Tidal. Beyond a video or off-cut from an album you won't see many of these tracks remain Tidal exclusives for long if the artist is looking at nabbing a hit.

What Are We Going To Do?
All things considered we're impressed by Tidal. The hi-fi sound is excellent on good quality headphone (which is not helpful to many, mind you) and the exclusive content is definitely appealing. The issue is that that exclusive content does ostracise many that can't afford Tidal's excessive subscription fees. The interface of Tidal is arguably nicer than Spotify, making it incredibly easy to use.

Our biggest issue is that Tidal needs time to grow. It needs time to expand its library and iron out some of its problems. The streaming service needs time to stand on its own two feet. Perhaps the worst thing Jay Z did was launch it on stage with a bunch of music stars. What seemed like a great publicity stunt has backfired and taken the attention away from the actually service itself and translated to a bunch on critiques about rich people getting richer.

We couldn't care less if this adds to Jay Z's empire or not. If the artists do receive their 75% royalty rate then that's great. If it forces artists to make a decision about what streaming service to make their content exclusive too then that's problematic. Users will have to either subscribe to multiple services or resort to torrenting the content that isn't exclusive to their chosen service.

For the time being we will be sticking with Spotify as it's a more reliable and established service. If Jay Z or Jack White give us a courtesy call in a few months time and ask us to reconsider then we may think again. They need to do a number of things before that though. They need to remove their high-profile owners from the marketing strategy and they need to concentrate on expanding the music library and increasing some of the creative content on the site. Tidal has a chance to integrate articles, interviews and more written content with its music and video library and that could be what will really set it apart.

It's too early to write Tidal off but it's also too early to fork out the money in favour of Spotify or another established streaming service.

Here's the situation explained in pictorial form: 

Tidal