Featured image: Philly Now
Earlier this year, Shawn Corey Carter, more popularly known as Jay-Z, purchased a Swedish streaming company Aspiro for $56 million — in cash. Of course a transaction of that scale doesn’t go unnoticed by the business world. This has led most speculators to believe that Jay-Z acted in partnership with fellow musician Taylor Swift for an epic battle against Spotify. Swift infamously pulled all of her music from Spotify around the release of her blockbuster album 1989 last October due to the fact that she believes Spotify doesn’t “value…what musicians have created.” These speculations were confirmed this past Monday when Jay-Z, along with other massively popular musicians like Calvin Harris, Rihanna, Jack White, and Beyoncé re-launched TIDAL at a press conference as the very first artist majority owned streaming company. Since then, there has been nothing but debate over whether TIDAL has a shot of gaining foot in an already crowded streaming market. However, in order to determine whether Jay-Z’s music revolution can work, one has to consider many factors.
Funding and Press
Right off the bat, the number one issue with any business venture is if there is sufficient funding and press to give TIDAL the jump start it needs. Considering that the list of part owners includes the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Christ Martin (Coldplay front-man), funds are not an issue. Most of the co-owner musicians have net worth’s north of $10 million thanks to their huge popularity. For example Jay-Z and Beyoncé have a combined net worth hovering just below $1 billion. Their huge wealth added to their world-wide fan base equals plenty of resources and press to pump up TIDAL. In contrast, the value of the owners have made some believe that all of this “value of music” spiel is just a plot to make the rich richer. Madonna has spoken out against this theory on social media, claiming that TIDAL “is not about consumption and greed,” but rather “protecting an art form that is beloved by all of us”. Regardless of whether Madonna’s statement is true or not, music industry analysts to casual music fans have called out against the exuberant wealth of the artists, ultimately hurting the public’s image of TIDAL. If the common music listener believes that TIDAL is just another way for the “1 percenter’s” of music to get some extra cash, listeners will be reluctant to switch to TIDAL.
The next issue is to ask what makes TIDAL so special. Why should a person drop all of their already familiar streaming services and take a leap of faith with Jay-Z and TIDAL? The music steaming industry is already crowded with the likes of Rdio, Pandora, and others. The main threat, however, is the darling of streaming itself, Spotify.
Spotify has over 50 million subscribers worldwide and is growing fast. Spotify has received much backlash for its free premium (freemium) service from the music industry, Taylor Swift included, arguing that this “freemium” service, which gives subscribers access to all of Spotify with an occasional ad, is devaluing music. This leads one back to the purpose of TIDAL, to give artists the control over their music, not a nameless business entity like Spotify. TIDAL doesn’t offer a “freemium” option but rather has “lossless,” Hi-Definition sound. Most streaming services, iTunes, and other music markets use AAC audio files that removes and compresses the sound to make the file smaller and easier to manage. TIDAL offers uncompressed, un-tampered music that is on par with CD quality sound. Although “lossless” sound does sound far more impressive than a mp3 file, the devices on which one would listen to TIDAL can’t handle this better quality sound. One would need special headphones, sound equipment, or superhuman hearing to even hear the difference. TIDAL also offers exclusive content such as exclusive singles, videos, and playlists seen nowhere else. The problem is that there is only a handful of exclusive content on TIDAL, leaving TIDAL without an element to make it stand out among the crowd.
Future of Streaming
And finally, we have the last issue to consider with TIDAL: the future. As stated before, TIDAL is late to the party. Almost a dozen of popular streaming sites have covered almost all the bases of streaming leaving little room for differentiation. To make things worse, Beats Electronics has recently been purchased by Apple. Apple’s iTunes has been the go-to place for music, having become the largest music market international in the past decade. But Apple wants a seat at the table of the streaming business as seen through their launch of iTunes Radio. With Beats Music in Apple’s hands, the streaming market may be taken by storm leaving the future of streaming competition vulnerable. To make things even grimmer, the music industry is on the decline. Album sales have fallen steadily since 2000 and single sales are not able to make up the slack. The next decade of music will see great changes in how music is sold to the masses making the future of TIDAL unsure.
There are a lot of issues that dictate the future success of TIDAL, but it’s still too soon to tell. Regardless of beliefs and statistics,
the [inlinetweet prefix=”click here to” tweeter=”” suffix=” on @rhino_press”] music industry is dying and streaming may be the knight in shining armor.[/inlinetweet] The question is how to regulate streaming and how artists make money through it. Yes, TIDAL may fail, yes, it may have not been the best idea for Jay-Z to drop $56 million in cash, but in the end all that is irrelevant. The music industry must change and TIDAL’s creation has helped people start thinking of ways to start.