Tidal: Revolutionary or Rip-off?


On March 30th,  Jay-Z and other artists such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West, Madonna, and Nicki Minaj, among others, launched a new audio streaming service called TIDAL. In a surprise conference that could, at best, be described as awkward and, at worst, as ridiculous, the music industry’s biggest stars came together to introduce their new streaming service to the public.

All of the stars came up one by one and signed what they called a “declaration” –but a declaration of what? That word in and of itself is a little self-important. The last important declaration the U.S. acknowledges dates back to 1776, and I hardly think an artist-owned version of Spotify is equivalent to the birth of a nation.

However, that’s how they’re branding it: revolutionary. It’s forever going to change the course of history (Jay-Z’s words). And everything about it feels so egoless (Beyoncé’s words). The press conference and promo video (complete with dramatic music and serious round-table talk about the meaning of art), while very theatrical, didn’t actually say much about the actual product.

What we do know is this: TIDAL is $9.99 a month for standard streaming (same as Spotify) and $19.99 for HD streaming –the perks of which we aren’t 100% sure. It comes with higher definition audio, but in all honesty, a majority of us won’t even be able to tell the difference. The artists in question are also releasing exclusive content to TIDAL only –such as songs or videos.

But how fair is it exactly? And who is it really benefitting? With a service they’re claiming is all about the art and benefitting the artist and consumer, their pitches seem far more monetarily beneficial for the millionaires on the stage than the consumers paying $20 a month. It begs the question: are we paying that much to make multi-millionaires even richer?

The fact of the matter is, $20 a month is a lot of money for many people –especially college students like us who, let’s face it, have no money. That’s where a lot of the controversy about TIDAL really lies –how out of touch with reality are these millionaire artists? They claim their  royalties with streaming services aren’t big enough, but what about independent artists? Jay-Z is already successful. As is Beyoncé. And Rihanna. And Kanye West. Everyone up on that stage is worth millions, but they say nothing of independent artists whose royalties are far, far less.

I don’t know whether TIDAL will be successful. And I won’t pretend that I’ve tried it. (Although there is a 30-day trial, apparently, there is no free-service option to try it out before purchase.) For all I know, in six months’ time, it could be as revolutionary as Madonna says. But I think the much more likely option is that, if anything, it’ll be just another streaming service. Even if TIDAL is as great as they say, the presentation to the public leaves a sour taste in most of our mouths. It seems anything but egoless. Only time will tell.