The ongoing shift away from music ownership towards subscription streaming services has taken a new turn with the news that a number of artists – led by rapper Jay-Z – have relaunched online platform Tidal. Known for offering high definition ‘lossless’ audio to subscribers, Tidal was bought by Jay-Z earlier this year after originally launching in Sweden.
Jay-Z told music industry magazine Billboard that he believes Tidal will deliver more money in the long-run to artists
The musician led a wave of high profile artists – including, Jack White, Kanye West, Beyonce, Daft Punk, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and members of Arcade Fire – in unveiling a service that will take aim at the growing number of listeners on services like Spotify, Rdio and Deezer.
Whereas Apple had previously led the digital music market with its download store iTunes, music fans have increasingly favoured subscription services that offer unlimited playback of songs. Spotify – also launched in Sweden – has expanded rapidly since its launch in 2006 and now has over 60m users. However, many artists are disgruntled with the low cost of the service, in particular Spotify’s ad-supported free service that accounts for the majority of its users. To date, only around 15m users pay a subscription to remove the adverts.
The debate over streaming services and whether they provide enough money to artists has rumbled on for the last few years, and Tidal seems to be a reaction against that. The main service offers streaming of high definition audio that has not been compressed for just under $20 a month. A cheaper service of standard audio quality is also available at $10 a month – in line with rivals like Spotify.
Jay-Z told music industry magazine Billboard that he believes Tidal will deliver more money in the long-run to artists, as well as giving them greater control over their catalogues. “We didn’t like the direction music was going and thought maybe we could get in and strike an honest blow. Will artists make more money? Even if it means less profit for our bottom line, absolutely. That’s easy for us. We can do that. Less profit for our bottom line, more money for the artist; fantastic.”
Apple is set to launch its own streaming service in June, which will merge its iTunes platform with the Beats Music service it acquired as part of its $3bn deal last year. Where the new Apple product and Tidal differ from Spotify is there focus on curation from industry figures and artists, rather than a digital algorithm that tries to predict what a listener will like. Both services will also offer exclusive content, such as advanced album releases and sessions, in order to entice people away from rivals.