Tidal, Jay Z’s New Music Streaming Service, Hardly Ripples

When most people think of Jay Z, they think of his prolific rap career and, of course, his superstar wife Beyoncé. But Jay Z is not only a rapper – he is a business man and record producer. Failure is not often a word associated with his good name, but something has changed all of that. Jay Z  now has his very own music streaming service, Tidal.

Although Tidal launched in October of 2014, it has only recently started to make waves on the internet since Jay Z bought it for $56 million last month. KC Ifeanyi from Fast Company stated, “Since its launch in March, Tidal has faced harsh criticism for dwindling downloads, an ousted CEO straight out the gate, and claiming to cut a better deal for artists even though the artists aligned with the service are multi-millionaire acts like Nicki Minaj and Madonna. It could very well be that Tidal just needs time to find its audience in the burgeoning landscape of streaming services.”

Two weeks after Tidal launched, the app dropped out of the top 700 charts. Essentially, it has always been a disaster, but with a big name like Jay Z behind it, it has at least been able to catch a little more attention. Jay Z has recently taken to Twitter to assure the public that Tidal is on its way to the top despite competition with music streamers like Spotify and Pandora. Here are just a few examples of some of Mr. Carter’s tweets defending Tidal:

“Tidal is doing just fine. We have over 770,000 subs. We have been in business less than one month. #TidalFacts” —April 26, 2015

“The iTunes Store wasn’t built in a day. It took Spotify 9 years to be successful… — April 26, 2015

“We are here for the long haul. Please give us a chance to grow & get better. #TidalFacts” —April 26, 2015

“There are many big companies that are spending millions on a smear campaign. We are not anti-anyone, we are pro-artist & fan. #TidalFacts” — April 26, 2015

“We made Tidal for fans. We have more than just music. We have video, exclusive concerts, tickets for events early, live sports!… — April 26, 2015

Time staff fact-checked Jay Z’s “facts” and found a mix of truth and falsity. For one, it is true that Tidal has over 770,000 subscribers, but most of them were already subscribing before he took the helm. iTunes basically was built in one day, having sold one million songs in its first week. Tidal does offer some livestreaming, so it’s true that Tidal has more than music.

Although in their fact-checking Time said Jay Z is wrong about smear campaigns against Tidal, there have been a lot of accusations of iTunes playing unfair since he bought the service. Page Six reporter Emily Smith detailed a report from a music industry source explaining how iTunes is playing dirty. The article states, “positioning in the app charts is driven by downloads, and according to our source, Apple ‘deliberately took a long time to approve Tidal iOS app updates. Tidal had a new app on Android on April 15, but still hasn’t received approval for Apple’s iOS app store.’” Smith also wrote that Page Six’s source told them that the Vice president of iTunes, Robert Kondrk, told executives at Universal Music Group that Tidal’s artists would not be promoted as featured artists on iTunes if they put exclusive music on Tidal. “The source added that after Rihanna’s song ‘American Oxygen’ debuted on Tidal, there were technical problems with her music on iTunes. The source explained, ‘Rihanna’s songs were scrambled and were out of commission for periods of time,’” says Smith’s article.

Most people have already utilized popular music streaming services such as Pandora or Spotify. What makes Tidal different is the price for a subscription after the free trial ends. Pandora is free with advertisements, but a subscription costs between $3.99 and $4.99. Spotify is also free with advertisements and their subscription costs $5 for students and $10 for everyone else. Tidal, however, charges $9.99 for TIDAL Premium after a 30 day free trial and TIDAL HiFi costs $19.99 after only a 15 day free trial. Another catch is that the free trial is not truly free. Upon download of the free trial for TIDAL Premium, the form asked for credit card information and after registration, a two dollar hold appears on the user’s account. The “free” trial might cost a bit because unlike other streaming services, Tidal does not have any sort of advertisements.

The way Tidal is run on the computer is similar to Pandora because it does not require any downloads, unlike Spotify. Tidal has a sidebar with several options for listeners to look through. It provides playlists, genres and videos while also showing listeners what is new and what artists are on the rise. An artist’s page includes their discography, videos, similar artists and more. Most of it is quite similar to Spotify.

Like all new apps or websites, Tidal is slightly more difficult to navigate. Being used to simple streaming services like Pandora and Spotify makes it that much more difficult to understand the layout of the website. The oddest part is that under a selected genre, there is a mix of completely random tracks that have no rank or order to them. Some of the songs under the “pop” genre were not necessarily pop, either. Most of the time, a mess of songs were playing one after another. At least on Spotify and Pandora, listeners can pick a genre, artist, etc. and know that the songs will be similar. On the other hand, the layout of the random tracks mixed together makes it easier to find new music. There is nothing exceptionally different about the sound quality or any other aspect compared to other streaming services.

The Bottom Line conducted an anonymous survey asking current Frostburg students about Tidal. Only one person knew about the music service and learned about it in class. The other Frostburg students who responded stated they mostly used Pandora and Spotify. They said they liked the other services because they are “free and there’s a lot of songs and variety for everyone,” “it is free and I am able to find most songs that have come out on cd,” and “I can pick a specific type of music and it plays only.” Overall, students mostly prefer Spotify and Pandora over Tidal for the simple fact that they have not heard of Tidal and their current music streaming service is good enough.

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