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May 22nd, 2015 | by Mark Duah

Unless you have been living under a rock, in a cave, underwater, you would have heard all of the hype and criticism surrounding the heavily promoted subscription-based music streaming service that combines lossless audio and high definition music videos with curated editorial  – TIDAL.  One of the major factors that sets TIDAL apart from other subscription-based music streaming services is the fact that Tidal claims to pay the highest percentage of royalties to music artists and songwriters within the music streaming market which has helped it to gain the support and ownership of giants in the music industry.

Tidal (stylized as TIDAL, also known as TIDALHiFi) was launched in the UK, the US, and Canada on October 28, 2014 by Swedish/Norwegian public company Aspiro. It has distribution agreements with all of the three major labels, in addition to many indies.  The service has over 25 million tracks and 75,000 music videos.  The launch was supported by Sonos and 15 other home audio manufacturers as integrations partners.  In January 2015, Tidal launched in five more European countries: Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.  In the first quarter of 2015, the parent company Aspiro was acquired by Project Panther Ltd., which is owned by Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. 

Following the acquisition of Aspiro by Jay Z, in March 2015 a mass-marketing campaign was introduced to relaunch Tidal. Multiple music artists changed their social media profiles design blue, and posted the phrase “#TIDALforAll” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  A press conference took place on March 30, 2015, introducing sixteen music artists to the stage, including Jay Z himself, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Jack White, Madonna, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire, Usher, Alicia Keys,Chris Martin, Calvin Harris, deadmau5, Jason Aldean and J. Cole were introduced to the stage as “The owners of TIDAL, who were all co-owners and stakeholders in Tidal.  The service was promoted as being the first artist-owned streaming service.  However, critics of this artist-owned streaming service such as, Eric Harvey of Pitchfork stated, “These are the 1 percent of pop music in the world right now, these are artists who do not answer to record labels, do not answer to corporations”.

A key selling point for Tidal in relation to competing with other streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora Radio is the exclusive content already available and expected for the future from the current artists who co-own the company, as well as others. Exclusive content available on the relaunch of Tidal included Rihanna’s new single “Bitch Better Have My Money” as Miley Cyrus’s number 1 mega hit [We Can’t Stop] charted over 23 countries with over 600 million views , The White Stripes debut television appearance, Daft Punk’s Electroma (2006), playlists personally curated by Jay Z, Beyoncé, Arcade Fire and Coldplay, and a preview of Todd Rundgren’s new collaborative project with Anders Lindström and Emil Nikolaisen, and more.

Shortly after Tidal’s launch and press conference, the mobile version of the service shot to the top 20 of the U.S. iPhone Apps chart. However, following criticism for its “out-of-touch marketing campaign”, two weeks later, the app had fallen out of the top 700 ranking of the same list, while competing services like Spotify and Pandora were surging.

From the outset of the relaunching of the Tidal brand, criticism and skepticism was met from both musicians and publications alike. Micah Peters writing for USA Today’s website released a list of “3 reasons why Jay Z’s new Tidal streaming service is stupid”. The article focused on points that the high fidelity, lossless audio quality model being promoted was “overestimat[ing] the average listener”. Peters worried that most listeners do not have the required, advanced headphones to distinguish the difference between ordinary and high fidelity audio. The article also stated that the $20 price point was simply not reasonable for the mass market.

Recording artist Lily Allen expressed her opinions on Tidal on her official Twitter account. She feared that the high price point of Tidal, as well as the mass popularity of the artist co-owners, could result in crippling the music industry and increasing piracy. She stated “I love Jay-Z so much, but Tidal is (so) expensive compared to other perfectly good streaming services, he’s taken the biggest artists… Made them exclusive to Tidal (am I right in thinking this?), people are going to swarm back to pirate sites in droves”.

Jay Z responded to criticism with a freestyle during the Tidal X: Jay-Z B-Sides concert. He compares Tidal with Apple and Nike and notices that Tidal has been subjected to hypocritical criticism.  He positions the criticism as having a racist component saying, “The only one they hating on look the same as you.”

A monthly subscription costs $9.99 for the standard premium service, or $19.99 for the lossless quality high fidelity (“HiFi”) service.  Tidal claim to pay the highest royalty percentage of any current music streaming company, with approximately 75% of members subscription fees being given to record labels for individual artist and songwriter distribution.  One artist has stated that artist royalties per track from Aspiro/Tidal are currently over three times than those paid by Spotify, but that royalties may decrease to provide a sufficient return on investment. As of March 2015, the service has over 580,000 paying users after being integrated with its sister service, WiMP, as well as 17,000 using the high fidelity service. Tidal currently operates in 31 countries.

Regardless if  you support the artist and music in general, any product that comes out today needs to be priced comparably in my mind, for it to be enticing for a consumer of any economic status.  Only time will tell if this services will reach the pinnacles it is aiming for, but for right now, I really feel some drastic changes have to be made with the price to for it to gain further traction.  At least give a brother a free month trial!

To find out more or to download the service – check it out @



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