JayZ, Madonna and a string of music’s biggest acts recently announced Tidal – a new music streaming venture intended to rival Spotify. At the blinged-up launch, the stars promised that – because the service was owned by musicians – it would act in the interests of musicians, hopefully reversing the rapid decline of royalties they receive due to streaming.
Although we think they’ve picked up on a culturally relevant issue in the music industry, we don’t think they’ve resolved it in a culturally relevant or category changing way. By using a band of wealthy music moguls who already dominate the industry, the brand came across as top down – the opposite of what they apparently hoped their impact would be.
Jay-Z claims the service will ‘revalue’ music and be the revolutionary in music streaming. If society can be convinced to ‘pay $6 for a bottle of water, something that used to be free’ then they can be convinced to pay more for music, he claims. Lured in by exclusive content, artist curated pages and superior sound quality, consumers will come to better appreciate the music they listen to and in turn help musicians get the rewards for their music. But they will also have to pay more for it – approximately double Spotify’s subscription rate. With many physical and visual links to their direct competitor, and little actual change to the consumer’s interaction with music– have they pushed the parameters far enough for it to seem worth it?
Though vague and idealistic the idea has promise. The rise of cheap music may have been good for most consumers, but there is also growing concern amongst more committed music fans at the plight of rookie musicians today and the future impact this will have on the quality of music they listen to. Tidal could be an attractive prospect to many – a chance to display your status as a loyal connoisseur and supporter of music, not just a passive everyday consumer of it.
Unfortunately, Tidal wasted it’s potential to be a game-changing underdog brand with its widely derided launch. Rather than foreground the struggling musician, initial results show it to be the mecca for the already established owners music – Rhianna just released her new song exclusively on Tidal. The revolution has not yet begun, but we remain open to the promise of opportunity for music and the industry with the hope that it may be the much needed tidal wave of change.