By now, any music- aficionado is used to the ever-changing landscape of the industry, in fact one could say the change may be the only thing that is constant within the industry.
The most recent change has come in the form of music streaming services that offer all the perks of an infinitely vast music catalogue, without the hassle of having a memory eating library housed on your personal computer.
For the past five years streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and Groove Shark have been freely supplying listeners the world over with millions of songs from countless artists, harkening in a golden age of music access.
But, right on schedule the wave of change ebbs closer to the shore. This time in the form of Tidal, the first ever artist owned streaming service.
WHAT IS TIDAL?
Acquired by prolific rapper Jay Z for $56 million through the purchase of Aspiro, Tidal is being touted as a revolutionary high-definition streaming service, that gives power back to artists as equity owners.
The service promises premium listening quality and exclusive content from some of the biggest names in the industry.
Unlike the aforementioned streaming services, Tidal does not have a free tier, only a regular and high-definition tier at the rates of $9.99 and $19.99 per month respectively. This pay structure allows artists with content on Tidal to receive the highest royalty percentage per stream.
Although Tidal sports a near identical interface to Spotify, the largest streaming service currently on the market with 60 million active users, Jay Z is adamant that Tidal is not here to compete or takeover, but rather to improve the landscape. As the tide rises, all the boats rise.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE LISTENER?
With the proliferation of Tidal, listeners have more choice of where get there music, but it also means that record labels have more options of where to license their music.
Record companies are now able to negotiate more favourable deals, which may lead to holes in music catalogues and libraries depending on the contractual agreements.
Already, weeks after Tidal’s launch, holes are threatening to appear in Spotify’s library, with tracks like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” and Beyoncé’s piano ballad “Die With You” only available through the new streaming service.
Choosing a service in the future, may mean choosing between different music collections or biting the bullet and subscribing to multiple services at once.
The drawbacks of these types of services will be put in the forefront as listeners are reminded of what is being lost with music-streaming versus music-collecting, ownership and the comforting knowledge that songs you listened to were yours to access theoretically forever.
In the wake of the now infamous press conference launch, Tidal has left the public confused, wondering why 16 wealthy musicians were demanding higher royalties.
The takeover has been criticized as the “music 1%” looking to make themselves richer.
Although some are drawn to the promised exclusive content, many music lovers are wondering why they should pay for something that they can already get for free.
As more exclusive content is released anti-Tidal crusaders are making a point to pirate and distribute the premium material.
Smaller artists like Lily Allen and Marina Lambrini Diamandis (aka Marina and the Diamonds) have voiced their concerns for what they deem an unnecessary service.
The public’s alienation, is only highlighting how out of touch these megastars actually are.
THE CONSTANT DEBATE
The Tidal takeover leads most back to the constant debate taking place within the music is industry. What is exaclty is being sold? Is it the music? Is it the access to the music? Is it the artists? The show? The feeling?
The public’s reaction to the launch of Tidal demonstrates the disconnect between what artists and what consumers deem valuable.
Since the Napster controversy of the 90s and the rise of music piracy, the value of music has become murky. This has only been exacerbated by the digital age and the disappearance of tangible products.
It seems that in the mind of the public, the music, the actual songs and album content is not worth paying for. It is readily available for free at the click of a button, so why pay?
In the eyes of most consumers, the music has become the advertisement and the product has become the artist. The music should entice the listener to buy tickets to the concert, to buy merchandise and to follow the career of the artist.
While artists, like the co-owners of Tidal, believe that since it takes money to make music, music should be valued monetarily.
The statement Tidal is making stands on the old music model, when only a select few has control. Tidal for all, is really Tidal for those who can afford it.
Until there is a unified idea of what is being sold and a sustainable business model, the industry will continue to search for money making opportunities and the public will continue find ways to pay the absolute minimum.
THE FUTURE OF STREAMING SERVICES
Tidal is just the first in a wave of new streaming services on the cusp of launching.
Googles is currently preparing to take YouTube Music Key out of beta testing, while Apple is in negotiations to re-launch Beat Music.
When Spotify ruled uncontested, streaming was a simple idea. Instead of curating and maintaining a memory guzzling music library, everything was available to stream in one place
Simple and easy.
If you wanted to pay for uninterrupted music you paid, if not you listened to the ads.
Although there were competitors, each service essentially offered the same thing, but with different interfaces.
Now as more paid subscription services pop up, the simplicity and ease of streaming will decrease, but people will have more choice in how they consume their music.
Only time will tell if these premium services overtake the current streaming landscape. Music lovers the world over will just have to keep moving with the current.