Don’t look now but there’s yet another music streaming service looking to hook you on its monthly subscription pricing. This one is brought to you by music super-star Jay-Z. Called TIDAL, the service boasts a new artist-owned approach to music streaming, which its celebrity owners say give musicians more power over the tech companies and music publishers that wield control in the industry now. It also claims that the streaming audio it provides is better sounding than other streaming services. Those are a lot of bold claims. How do they play out? Here’s everything you need to know.
What’s The Deal With Tidal?
Though TIDAL held its launch this week, the service officially launched last October as a streaming music partnership between speaker-maker Sonos and other home audio manufacturers. After a moderately successful launch in a handful of countries, Jay-Z’s company Project Panther Limited swooped in and bought it for $54 million.
Once purchased by Jay-Z, the company went through a drastic ethos makeover. Now TIDAL became a company with the motto “turn the tide”– a slogan representing the company’s hope of “restoring value to music” by creating a streaming service that was owned by the artists and not traditional tech execs. Besides Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Rihanna, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, deadmau5, Jason Aldean, J. Cole and Madonna are also co-owners of TIDAL and Jay-Z is reportedly offering major music starts millions of dollars and an equity stake in the company if they join him.
So, The Main Deal With TIDAL is it Allows The Rich Music Artists To Make More Money?
Pretty much. But you don’t need to be a rich music superstar to benefit. TIDAL will pay any music artist double the royalties that Spotify and Pandora do. But those double rates are only for songs listened to via the premium TIDAL plan. TIDAL also has an entry-level plan for subscribers and any songs played on that plan will only make the artists the standard streaming rates.
“If there was an artist-owned streaming site available – a co-operative for musicians to run in their mutual interests,” notes The Independent, “with an equal distribution of profits? I’d pay the premium. But no, that’s not Tidal. A group of people with a combined wealth of over $2.7bn want to make themselves even richer, with no mention of the artists who struggle to make ends meet – that sounds more like it. No mention of their less successful comrades. So you can imagine where the focus of Tidal is going to be, and where its allegiances will lie.”
What’s In It For Me?
There are some benefits for the subscriber too. The two big features TIDAL touts are High Fidelity lossless sound quality and the fact that since it’s owned by so many big name, many music releases will be exclusive to TIDAL first.
How Good Is High Fidelity?
That’s a very iffy question. Technically the streaming codecs used can delivery a higher-quality audio signal. However, whether or not your ear can distinguish between that signal and lower quality streaming signals depends on a lot of factors. First, it just depends on how good your hearing is. I’m the kind of guy where, to me, music quality generally sounds the same no matter how it’s encoded. I just don’t have the natural ability to detect subtle quality differences.
But even if I did, I likely wouldn’t pick up any differences between your average streaming quality and lossless streaming quality because of the type of headphones and speakers I use. I generally listen to music through my MacBook’s speakers, which though fine for my ear, generally aren’t the absolute best for maximum quality. As for headphones, I use a cheap £20 pair. For lossless quality music to be able to reach your eardrum unfettered, you really need high-end, expensive speakers or headphones. If you don’t have those, you’re not going to be able to hear the benefits of the music anyway.
Plans and Pricing
TIDAL has two subscription plans available. The first is TIDAL Premium. It costs $9.99 a month and includes access to 25 million “standard sound quality” tracks and 75,000 HD music videos. The service also features “expertly curated editorial content”.
The plan Jay-Z and his fellow artists hope you’ll go for, however, is the TIDAL HiFi plan. It costs $19.99 a month and includes access to 25 million Lossless High Fidelity sound quality tracks and 75,000 HD music videos, along with “expertly curated editorial content” claim.
But lets face it: $20 is a lot to pay each month for a streaming music service and many artists have commented on Twitter that they think the high price could just encourage more pirating. The $10 plan is a little better option, but still many people don’t pay for music. That’s why other streaming music services offer ad-supported free subscriptions. TIDAL offers no ad-supported subscription plans.