Tidal wave attempts to wipe out competition, falls short
Tidal, a new music-streaming service, is attempting to change the music industry and give power back to the musicians. With a firm belief that music has been devalued, Tidal has the support of high-profile artists such as Jay Z, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Madonna and Nicki Minaj. However, by limiting the service to feature exclusively high-earning artists, the service has already done itself a disservice.
On the surface, it sounds like already-rich artists are trying to get richer. According to The Guardian, these big-name artists have equity in the company, making it “the first artist-owned global music and entertainment platform” in the world. The reason these artists are in support of Tidal is because they believe this model will restore the value of music by forcing consumers to pay for music instead of listening for free via advertisement-supported subscription models like Spotify or Pandora.
Musicians taking the value of music into their own hands isn’t news. Taylor Swift decided to pull all of her music catalog from Spotify back in November and said consumers can still listen to her music if they purchase it through iTunes. She tried Spotify, but she said she didn’t believe it matched the inherent value placed on her art.
“I liked ‘1989’, and I was going to buy the album regardless of (whether) it was on Spotify,” said communication disorders junior Hannah Patterson. “Taylor Swift is one of my favorite artists, so it wasn’t a hard decision to support her.”
The argument against free streaming is that some artists believe streaming hurts album sales. According to Vox, sales were down 14 percent in 2014.
Artists receive a significantly lesser sum from Spotify’s pay cut than they would from album sales. Every time a song is played, payment goes through a complicated route of many middlemen before reaching the artist.
The streaming model isn’t horrible for artists, but the current model isn’t perfect. On the other hand, free streaming allows potential fans to discover new artists and their music that consumers otherwise would not have listened to.
“I find new music through my friends’ Spotify playlists and whatever they happen to be listening to when we hang out,” said hotel and restaurant management freshman Marc Greeley. “I’ll go through music from an artist and buy what I like.”
“It seems like music fans end up losing also because now we won’t be able to listen to new music from these artists if we aren’t paying for Tidal,” Greeley said.
According to Billboard, Tidal has been met with criticism from other artists. Ben Gibbard from alternative rock group Death Cab for Cutie said that Tidal was an opportunity for Jay Z “to stand up for 10 underground or independent artists struggling to make a living in today’s music industry.” Instead, Gibbard said the public sees “a bunch of millionaires and billionaires complain about not being paid.”
Tidal, which charges a higher price of $19.99 per month, is relying on exclusive content from high-profile artists to succeed. The service is a paid-only model, deterring consumers who don’t want to pay for a new service when there are rival services such as Spotify, iTunes, Rdio and Pandora currently deep-rooted in the music industry’s ecosystem.
“I’m not a huge fan of paid-subscription streaming services,” Patterson said. “I think buying something, whether it’s tangible like a CD or through iTunes, feels better because it gives the buyer a sense of ownership.”
Even if Tidal doesn’t succeed on a level that allows it to sustain longevity, the topic of fair loyalty payouts from streaming services will be discussed among the music industry. Tidal can leverage to consumers its exclusivity to a handful of top artists, but even that is not enough to draw a large user base.
The new service differentiates itself from others by providing high quality audio and video content. However, Tidal does not have enough powerful backing to persuade consumers to flock to its service.
Artist exclusivity comes with a price. The fewer people who listen to a single, the lower the single will chart on Billboard’s Hot 100 among other charts incorporating streaming data.
Nielsen Music, the provider of sale and streaming data for Billboard, is not currently tracking Tidal’s streaming activity. Exclusivity to a single-streaming service that does not have a large consumer base also alienates current and potential fans of an artist’s music.
In a market that requires more undivided attention from consumers, the last thing an artist should do is prevent fans from reaching their music.
Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected].