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Tidal: For All?

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Tidal is the work of Jay-Z, Rapper-Cum-Music Industry mogul, who bought the service a little over a month ago from original developers and owners, Aspiro. It was launched March 30th, with a bizarre press conference that involved some of the most well known artists of our time, including Beyoncé, Alisha Keys, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, and Deadmau5. This collection of artists all gave speeches stating how TIDAL was the future of music and how artists deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. Then they all signed a document that purportedly was about how they all now own a piece of this streaming service, and are committed to bringing a higher quality of music to their fans.

            Because I’m a fan of music and a skeptic of industry nonsense like this, I went and tried Tidal. Now the verdict: Is paying $20 a month for lossless audio and High Quality music videos really worth it? Short answer, No. Long answer, Definitely No. If you want a good reason, just open up Spotify, and open up Tidal. Now look at the two. Do a good back and forth, just to be sure. Now tell me what the difference is.

            Music-wise I listened to a few different groups, albums and tracks (Arctic Monkeys’ “AM”, A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation”, BADBADNOTGOOD’s “III”, etc.) and I can say without a doubt that if there is a difference, I’m not hearing it. It’s not fault of trying, either. I brought out my best headphones, listened through an external soundcard, all the little audiophile tricks. There is nothing you can hear on a Tidal stream that you can’t hear on Spotify, downloading a mp3, or even going to YouTube and listening to a decent-quality track. Most people can’t tell the difference anyway.


The whole point of Tidal (Especially if you watched the press conference) seems to be putting artists back in control of their music, how it’s distributed, and how much they are compensated for this. The artists that are part of this, Deadmau5, Daft Punk, Jay-Z, et. al, they seem to have this Us v. Them mentality towards streaming services like Spotify. To them I say, where were you when we needed you? You know what really lets artists take control of their music in the marketplace? Bandcamp. People aren’t uploading their music to Spotify and Spotify is taking the cut, they give it to a service that distributes it to all these streaming services. You know who gets the most money off of a stream? Rights holders. I’m not talking about the actual artists, either. I’m talking record companies. The record companies have always always always taken the biggest cut from the sale of any piece of music, from vinyl to digital. Where is your big fight against Universal? Where is your battle against BMG or Warner Brothers? Instead, you take on the one stream of revenue that has been decreasing the rate of piracy for years. The real stuggle is with the music corporations, the people who own the rights to the music made.

I won’t bore you with tales of music industry sausage-making, but simply put, the way artists make money has always put the biggest breadwinners, the same ones that partnered with Jay, at the top of the food chain income-wise. Bands with lesser amounts of fans get nada. That’s how it’s been since the dawn of time, because its revenue that has driven the business, much like any other industry. The problem is that, as time has told us, the business has not changed with the times. They didn’t want to change when napster was on the scene, they decided to sue their fans. Now they don’t want to change when downloading becomes a hot commodity. It won’t change either. It won’t until someone somewhere does something. If these artists really wanted to make a stink and change the industry, they would go on strike. No music-making, no touring, no promo appearances, no nothing. They would just sit in their mansions and do nothing until the heads of all the major labels decided it was time to change how much money they ask from these streaming services. Only then would artists be fairly compensated, and the true sea change take place in the music business.