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Can Jay Z and Tidal change the Music Industry?

It has long been claimed by musicians of all levels of fame and success, that Spotify gives musicians a raw deal. This is particularly pertinent for bands and artists with small followings who receive pennies for their endeavours. In fact many artists, like Taylor Swift have made a point of removing their music from the platform as they do not believe it should be available for free. She believes music has value, even in these times where every song ever made is just a click away - and she’s not the only one.

Jay Z has sold sold 100m records, founded a business empire worth upwards of $520m (£350m) and married Beyoncé. Now, Jay Z, backed by a roll call of his other A-list friends, is fronting the relaunch of a music streaming website heralded as the first real challenger to Spotify. Jay Z has promised to change the financial model of music streaming with his new service Tidal.

Vowing to create the first major artist-owned co-operative streaming service, announcing Kanye West, Madonna and Rihanna – as well as many other members of pop music’s current royalty - as joint owners of this new service.

Quoting Frederick Nietzsche, fellow co-owner Alicia Keys said at the Tidal launch last night: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Much noise has been made on social media, with artists turning their Twitter profile turquoise in support of the new subscription only service and have made the hashtag #TIDALforALL trend worldwide. The fact that the launch of this new business venture co-opted the methods used by social justice campaigns to get noticed, left a bitter taste in many peoples mouth, however it did get everyone talking about it.

Jay Z has recently convened a summit of the worlds biggest artists such as  Madonna, Kanye West, Daft Punk, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Jack White, Beyoncé and Rihanna included. Jay Z outlined his ambitions as follows:

“The subject was how they could turn Aspiro – which will be known in the U.S. as TidalHifi when it relaunches – into a streaming music and video service akin to the old United Artists pictures, in which artists would actually profit from their art and put out quality material.

In 1919, a handful of movie stars – Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and director D.W. Griffith – banded together and started their own studio to combat what they saw as growing commercialism of the majors. I’m told that Jay Z, who can be a bit of a visionary, sees his new service just this way.”

A video of the meeting:


During the launch and subsequent press releases, Tidal was described as “a single destination for artists and fans to share ideas, exclusive content, songs, videos, studio sessions, rough tracks, personal conversations and more”.

Project Panther Bidco (Jay Z’s company) paid $56m for Aspiro, which ended 2014 with 500,000 paying users for its subscription services. Tidal will compete with Spotify, Deezer and other streaming services, with Apple also set to relaunch its own Beats Music while YouTube brings its YouTube Music Key out of invite-only beta.

Fans have been quick to criticise the host of wealthy artists who have signed up to Tidal seeking to make even more money from the public.

The success of this new venture depends a lot on the public reception, which at best has been mixed. The market for Flac lossless (CD quality) music listening isn’t as groundbreaking as the people behind Tidal would like you to believe, however it should appeal to audiophiles who really care about the quality of their music. The price point (£20) for many consumers has also been a sticking point, however they are offering a lower rung subscription rate of £10 which competes with Spotify’s offering.

The one massive advantage Jay Z has is the artist support and buy-in. If the major artists are pushing Tidal above all other services, particularly if they remove their music from other services or put it on Tidal first (if their labels allow them), Tidal could have a massive advantage.

It will also depend on whether it really delivers for artists financially and fans in terms of useabillity and back catalogue.

Jay Z may be hoping to create a tidal change in the music industry, but it looks like he will have a long way to go to counter audience perceptions before he can begin to reap financial rewards for his friends and change the game.

What do you guys think? Can you see it being a success or sea change for the industry?

02/04/2015
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