Tidal May Edge Out Spotify

Artists are backing the more artist-friendly music streaming service

By Josh Magness

Months after Taylor Swift pulled all of her music off of the music streaming Spotify because she said it didn’t compensate artists enough, a group of big-name artists including Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Madonna and Daft Punk revealed their plans for Tidal, a pricier alternative to Spotify that seeks to be more artist-friendly.

The group of superstars revealed the project at the end of March at the Tidal Launch Event in New York City. Tidal comes with two account options: a standard streaming service for $9.99 a month that plays music at 160 kbps quality, about the same as Spotify’s free option, and a lossless streaming service for $19.99 a month that plays music at CD-quality sound.

Those prices aren’t very favorable when one considers that Spotify lets users choose between either a free account or a premium account, which checks out at either $4.99 a month for students and $9.99 a month for everyone else.

If users can’t make peace with leaving Spotify and laying down big bucks for higher-quality music streaming, Jay Z, who purchased Tidal for $56 million, hopes to make the application appealing to consumers by emphasizing its fairness to artists. Spotify confirmed in 2013 that it pays artists as little as 0.6 cents a stream, meaning a song would have to be played 166 times to earn just under $1 in royalties.

The artists behind Tidal also hope to garner users by releasing exclusive content on the app.  Rihanna withheld her new single American Oxygen from Spotify and released it exclusively on Tidal, and then later on iTunes. Beyonce did the same with her new piano ballad Die With You, and has yet to release it on any other platform other than Tidal. Taylor Swift also released all of her music on Tidal, besides her latest chart-topping album 1989. Jay Z pulled his critically acclaimed 1996 album Reasonable Doubt from Spotify and there are rumors that Kanye West will release his upcoming album, So Help Me God, solely on the app later this year.

Many fans on social media were angered that some of their favorite artists decided to remove their music from Spotify and other platforms, ultimately forcing them to choose between paying upwards of $9.99 a month, going on pirating sites or waiting for songs to be released on iTunes to hear their new favorite jams.

Some fellow artists didn’t agree with every aspect of Tidal, either. Singer-songwriter Lily Allen said she is concerned about Tidal’s exclusive content, saying in a March 30 tweet that “…people are going to swarm back to pirate sites in droves sending traffic to torrent sites.”

The app, which comes with a 30-day free trial, still has a lot of questions surrounding it. Will a combination of higher-quality music, exclusive content and a moral appeal to respecting artists be enough to persuade consumers to switch to a more expensive streaming service? Will indie artists, who make much less than the millionaire stars promoting Tidal, become part of the application and benefit from the artist-friendly service? Will more mainstream artists join in, and potentially create a music streaming service monopoly?

But, most importantly, will Tidal be able to compete with Spotify, and eventually render it obsolete? The answer so far remains unknown, but with a collection of artists that boast millions of devoted fans, a slew of Grammys and various achievements both commercially and critically, it doesn’t seem too farfetched that Tidal might be the next big thing in music streaming.

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