Does the world need another music delivery channel?
Jay Z stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other famous, wealthy, established artists – Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Kanye West, Chris Martin, Jack White, Jason Aldean, Madonna (my prayers for them to break into “We Are The World – 2015” sadly went unanswered) to launch the new streaming service Tidal.
What’s new about it? Besides the celebrity backers that filed one-by-one to sign their signatures on a Declaration of Artist Independence, the details at the L.A. streamed event were murky.
How does it stack up to standard-bearing music delivery systems like Spotify and Pandora? How will it compete against the upcoming service by Apple, a company that has already displayed a streak of ingenuity in the music industry.
First off, there are no free rides. Not that Spotify “free” is actually free, as anyone that has put up with those ear-splitting ads can attest.
But Tidal doesn’t even give this level of pretence on a sales tactic that’s worked for Sunday morning grocery stores and drug dealers the world over, the first taste is free. Users can choose between paying $10 a month for compressed digital audio quality (like what Spotify offers) or $20 a month for CD quality sound. Once you sign up it’s all you can eat os a currently limited music buffet.
There is the future promise of “special content or exclusive availability for new music” as well as access to concert tickets and merchandise. But right now that’s all they are, promises.
Can a small-time working artist join Tidal and expect decent audience exposure and fairer compensation the they would get from another service? Will users better morale instincts lead them to pony up to use a service that fairly compensates artists for their wares? Will those good patrons do so in numbers that allow it to stay in business?
Time will tell. But it doesn’t set well with me that there was no artist’s on stage that weren’t household (Or at least home room) names. If there was some visual cue that the wealthy celebrities were standing in solidarity with the van-driving road troubadour I’d at least breath easier about the spectacle.
Instead we get an awkward red carpet revolution of what appears to be a digital gated community and a feeble grasp of what once was, but now long gone. Artist control of the industry over technology pioneers.
Technology , at this point, is not the answer to the music industry woes. Compensation laws and accounting that takes into consideration this new tech-driven worlds needs to be vetted and enforced is a long term solution that sits apart from whatever new technology comes along.
Will Jay Z’ star power be enough to ensure Tidal’s long-term success. No way. No more than Garth will make Ghost Tunes into a major industry player. These are indulgences and vanity projects with no new direction. Just technical and media manifestations of old wishes.
Jay Z and his celebrity buddies should have lobbied in Washington and shone the light on the unfairness of the economic that hasn’t been updated in decades. Tidal doesn’t do that hard, long-lasting work.
But long economic and legal processes make for bad spectile. And right now that’s all Tidal is.