Tidal and the New Wave

It feels like everything wants you to pay a monthly subscription these days. Despite growing up shunning the idea of paying subscriptions for magazines and newspapers (you know, the things that might give me a job one day) I’ve become a recent convert.

Netflix got me in with a free first month and the promise of a TV revolution, and I signed up to a (kind of awesome, kind of unreliable) beauty service which sends me surprising lotions every month. For both of these, I pay $14.99, except with the former, I get to split it with my housemates. Booyah!

But I’ve only ever flirted with Spotify’s free tier of music. Well, we maybe did some heavy petting. The reason I like Spotify is that it lets me show my Facebook friends that I listen to cool, varied music. I’m hoping that when they see I’m playing Daughter, they know I’m in the tub. And when I play Kanye, they are damn sure I’m twerking. But I never wanted to pay for Spotify Premium, despite the annoying ads that get stuck in your head as much as the songs do.

Jay Z’s rival platform Tidal is making headlines. Beyonce dropped a new, soulful song “Die With You” on the eve of her 7th wedding anniversary. For those who got the chance to see and hear it (YouTube has now taken it down due to a copyright claim) it was a hand-held video (you’d think Jay-Z would have better equipment) of Beyonce singing beautifully at the piano. It’s available exclusively on Tidal, as is Rihanna’s new stuff and a teaser for what Madonna is doing. Whatever that is.

There were even rumours that Kanye was going to drop his next album exclusively on Tidal, but methinks that came from a clever hoax which had the new platform show a fake ‘Ye album featuring Michael Jackson. Yeah. right.

Sneakily, while we were sleeping to the sweet melody of Bey’s love-song, Jay Z pulled his latest stuff from rival platform Spotify. It’s a decision that Taylor Swift made last year too.  Is this the start of an artist-led revolution?

Tidal’s marketing certainly seems to want us to think so. According to the Guardian, there are some big names involved including. ‘Arcade Fire, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Coldplay, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J Cole, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Usher’. All of these names are artists who hold equity, or essentially part-ownership. in the platform. Tidal says it will be sharing more shares with smaller artists soon, but for now it’s just the super rich ones. We’re told these guys are taking a stand for the integrity of music, and that we’re meant to be giving back to the brilliant but already-swimming-in-it celebs.

But the rules of the game haven’t changed that much yet. Streaming songs will still send the profits to the label, who will then dish out royalties. So for anyone who isn’t Jay Z and doesn’t own their own label, your slice of the pie isn’t getting much bigger.

Tidal is available for US$9.99 per month, or a seemingly better-sounding HiFi version will set you back US$19,99 a month. It’s this priciness and the absence of a free tier which is bugging people. Apple and YouTube are set to release their subscription-based music platforms this year too. It’s looking like the industry is changing, but are they stepping up or pummelling the agency of their consumers?

What with metadata retention and the landmark piracy case on behalf of Dallas Buyer’s Club, it is looking like free downloads are receding into ‘the old days’ already. Winter is coming, kids.