There's been a lot of hate regarding the press conference and release of Tidal, the music streaming service owned and relaunched by Jay-Z.
It appears that Tidal will offer similar services as Spotify, with the differences being no free, advertisement-driven option, as well as a premium service with high-fidelity music quality. But there is a primary difference between Tidal and other music delivery systems that is being overlooked, or rather, looked at the wrong way.
Tidal is artist-owned.
This could be a good thing -- a very good thing. We should be happy. But it seems that we are not.
The overwhelming majority of commentary regarding Tidal's launch has been negative, focused narrowly on the over-the-top melodrama of the press conference, and the fact that the artist-owners are already rich.
Madonna, Beyonce, Daft Punk, Kanye, Alicia Keys. Rich guys trying to get richer. It's easy to poke fun at them. Too easy.
And too short-sighted.
There are still a lot of questions about Tidal. Will the royalties be better than Spotify's? Will the artist-owned model benefit smaller musicians? And yes, the air of the press conference, like they had figured out world peace and were offering a high-fidelity recording of a tree falling in the forest even though no one was there to hear it, left a lot to be desired.
But I am confused by the lack of inherent support. My gut-reaction upon hearing that a major music delivery option was going to be owned by artists like Arcade Fire and Jack White was positive. Sounded good to me. Like HBO and Netflix the subscription-model is the future, and it is the best way for art and business to co-exist. No advertisers influencing decisions. No more paying for content by commercial pollution. And now a subscription based service owned by artists? Even better. Right?
Since Napster brought "free" (i.e stolen) music to the masses, we have entered a new stage in the music industry's evolution: from vinyl, to cassette, to CD, to digital, to free. Yet free as the dominant delivery system is not only unsustainable, it's also wrong. You'll pay $600 for a new iPhone to replace your still functioning old iPhone, but refuse to shell out a few bucks for a piece of art that will last you a lifetime, a result of an artist's years of hard work and talent and passion.
Why don't we post snarky comments about how much the CEO of Apple is worth when they introduce an unnecessary new product or try to monopolize their way into a new market? Why don't we get into a Twitter-rage when when a billion-dollar car or oil company puts out an ad with inspiring uplifting music, claiming they are making the world a better place?
For too long we have been spoiled by all this "free" stuff. I wonder if people are subconsciously pissed off because somebody is messing with their candy, telling them that play-time is over, back to reality, time to pay. And rich superstars make for an easy target.
Would you rather stay in the model of multinational record label execs sitting in some ivory tower using a cost-benefit-analysis to decide what music gets made? Or perhaps the good-old days of labels screwing over small artists?
Or maybe you simply don't care that Spotify's royalty rate from it's "free" ad-option pays artists next to nothing, as long as you keep getting your fix?
Forget the big names you saw on stage, forget what they are worth. Even try to forget the tone-def press conference. Artists needs our support, especially new artists, and the status-quo of free or unfair streaming royalties not only hurts Jay-Z's deep pockets, it all but kills the struggling new musician.
Tidal may not be the holy revolution it claims to be, but as a concept it's a step in the right direction.
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