Arguably music’s biggest mogul and businessman, Jay Z is never one for small-scale ventures. Already boasting over 100m record sales, a business empire worth over £350m and Beyoncé as his wife, Jay Z has now released a music streaming website said to be the first real rival of Spotify.
Backed by a line of A-listers – Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Rihanna, Coldplay, Madonna, , Beyoncé and more – the rapper unveiled the new look for Tidal. It’s a streaming site originally launched by Norwegian firm Aspiro in October 2014 and bought for £37.8m earlier this month by a company controlled by the music mogul.
The rallied artists promised to bring a service that would “turn the tide” and restore the value to music by launching a service owned by artists. Jay Z is said to be offering millions of dollars and an equity stake to artists who join him.
Turn the tide against what exactly?
Apparently the enemies are companies like Spotify that offer streaming music for free, sustained by advertising. Several artists accuse Spotify for paying only a meagre amount for the rights to stream their music.
Tidal, on the other hand, pledges to pay double the standard streaming fees. It’s labelling itself as a sort of ‘United Artists’ for the streaming era – a business built in opposition to tech companies that traffic in ads.
Admittedly, it seems a symbolic move in a business where musicians often have little control over how their work is distributed and consumed.
“We didn’t like the direction music was going and thought maybe we could get in and strike an honest blow”, Jay Z told Billboard.
As well as a standard subscription for £6.75 ($9.99) a month, Tidal offers a “high fidelity” option for £13.51 ($19.99), which claims to deliver better sound quality.
Tidal is bound by the same economics as its competitors, but it has chosen to move away from the free ad-supported stage that pays the least per stream.
In an industry that sees streaming music as the best bet for growth – and artists grasp this fact too – it’s easy to understand artists’ frustrations and scepticism with other companies like Spotify, Deezer and Google Play.
Spotify boasts over 60 million customers, 15 million of whom pay. Tidal, by contrast, only has 17,000 paying subscribers.
There has been global criticism however, “I actually don’t mind the product, but using social justice rhetoric to launch a capitalist venture is pushing it. #TIDALforALL”, Phoebe J Smith tweeted.
TNT Business Yasin Chinembiri