Shawn Carter, more commonly known as Jay Z, is a hip-hop mogul whose success has catapulted him into a household name. From record label owner, to music festival curator, to being close buddies with President Obama, there’s no obstacle too large standing in the way of this former kid from the streets of Brooklyn. As an artist, he has witnessed firsthand how the shift from purchasing physical albums to online streaming has hurt both the quality of music and the musicians themselves.
Enter Tidal, a new streaming music service launched by Jay Z himself. The service promises higher quality content, including audio and video curated by the artists themselves. Some of music’s biggest names, including Madonna and Kanye West, were enlisted as equity partners in exchange for promotional and marketing support. Artists like Rihanna are already premiering new music videos exclusively on the service.
The service offers both standard and hi-fi paid subscriptions based on the quality of the content served. Unlike Pandora and Spotify, there will be no free ad-supported streaming. According to AdAge, “Tidal promises to put power back in the hands of the artists, who over the years have lost control over how their music is distributed and consumed. Major streaming services that offer freemium models to entice consumers into subscriptions, have been particularly frustrating for some artists.” An example of this played out recently when Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify stating, “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music.” Following this, Swift took her talents to Tidal.
With artists like Alicia Keys and wife Beyoncé by his side, it will be interesting to see if Jay Z’s artist-focused service can compete for a user base with the already well-established services like Pandora and Spotify. Jay Z once rapped, “I am a hustler baby; I’ll sell water to a well.” With the well drying up on the music industry’s patience for free services that don’t fairly reward artists, only time will tell if Tidal can quench fans’ and musicians’ thirsts alike.