Yesterday, March 30, Jay Z revealed the (re)launch of Tidal, a music streaming service championed by some of pop music’s most notable icons. They include Madonna, Beyonce, Deadmau5, Jack White and Kanye West, to name just a few. The service boasts features like lossless high fidelity sound, curated editorials and high definition video playlists. With a music catalog of 25 million tracks and the support of some of the most important artists in the music industry today, Tidal launched today with great anticipation and equally great skepticism.
To start, Tidal is offered at two price points. There are no freebies here folks, so if you’re not willing to dish out at least $10, you’re not welcome in the service. The basic service, dubbed Tidal Premium, is offered at $9.99 per month. This price point comes with standard quality sound, high definition music videos and editorials in the form of curated playlists. Above that is Tidal HiFi with a price point of $19.99 per month. The HiFi plan, which is the true selling point of the service, is essentially the same as Tidal Premium but it offers lossless high fidelity sound as opposed to the standard sound quality.
It’s apparent that Tidal aims to position itself as more than just a streaming service with videos and editorial curation. But its true selling point is its offering of lossless high fidelity sound. Those interested in that factor will have to shell out just under $20 per month, or nearly $240 a year, just for the privilege. But if you’re a casual music listener and are comfortable with standard quality sound, then the $10 per month premium tier doesn’t necessarily differentiate itself from Spotify, whose premium service costs just about the same.
For Spotify Premium subscribers who aren’t looking for the high fidelity sound feature, Tidal doesn’t offer up anything in particular that would lure customers towards its service. Unless you’re an audiophile dedicated to pursuing top tier sound, Tidal doesn’t offer up anything that Spotify can’t match, if not exceed. On top of that, Spotify’s music catalog sits at over 30 million according the the company, Tidal claims a music catalog of 25 million. That’s at least 5 million songs that users are potentially missing out on.
With all the hype from yesterday’s publicity pushes, Tidal made the case that it was the future of music. But looking into its user interface and glancing around at its “expertly curated” playlists, it comes off as fairly unimpressive, especially in light of the hype it received in the media and on social media platforms, and experts agree.
In an interview published yesterday, March 30, Jay Z told Billboard, “We want [Tidal] to be open to everyone. But it definitely appeals to people who really care about the music and want to hear it the way it’s intended.” Critics, however, are skeptical of the service’s intentions.
Duncan Geere at Tech Radar explained, “No-one buys a ridiculous [sic] expensive wristwatch because it’s better at telling time than a £30 Swatch, do they? No, Tidal’s selling perceived status — you can be that kid on the school bus who has the high-definition music that everyone wants to listen to.” This is a service that is essentially positioning itself as an expensive, boutique streaming catalog; it is the Rolex or Porsche of streaming.
“The rollout completely ignored any non-superstar artist,” Digital Music News said of the launch and its big name celebrity endorsements. “Is that how this is going to work? You’re not worthy unless you’re ALREADY a millionaire?”
As Paste Magazine put it, “Just how Spotify and the rest react will be vital in this intensifying war but crucially, it will be a war fought over many years; not a short battle. It’s a long road ahead for Tidal, but it has certainly made a splash.”