BreatheHeavy speaks with Billboard's Senior Editorial Analyst about TIDAL versus Spotify.
In a bid to promote the service and gain new subscribers, Rihanna ("American Oxygen"), Madonna ("Ghosttown" video teaser) and Beyonce ("Die With You") posted exclusive content to TIDAL last week, but its impact was less than stellar. Not only did the move turn off entire fan-bases because of the pressure to shell out cash for said exclusive content, but it promoted piracy; the original media posted on TIDAL landed on free platforms like YouTube almost immediately after its debut. Spotify continues dominating competing music streaming services like TIDAL or Rhapsody because people like the illusion their music listening experience is free, but can Spotify sustain their unrestricted access indefinitely?
"I don't know if we should expect Spotify to continue the offer of free, unlimited access in the future," Peoples continues. "It might be that in the near future Spotify limits the free advertising tier. Labels have been very vocal about their unhappiness about free, unlimited streaming. This was an approach labels bought into years ago... bring people in with free listening and convince some of them to become paying subscribers. Now, we're four years into Spotify being available in the United States, and labels don't think free/unlimited streaming is good. They're unhappy with the conversion rate, they're unhappy with the royalties, they want some limits on free streaming."
The hand-selected group of musical heavyweights stood behind a message of unity at the service's launch on March 30th, labeling the occasion "a moment that will forever change the course of music history," but it provides little insight what it can do for emerging musicians aside from higher royalty rates on a per stream basis. It does appear the rich keep getting richer, but artists like Calvin Harris, Daft Punk and Chris Martin lend their likeness to promote a brave move into unknown territory. The effects of higher payouts in streaming could result in a fairer share for those producing the music: writers, producers, sound engineers.
"It all comes down to listeners," Peoples said. "[Streaming services] is a new industry. I don't think any subscription service is profitable right now. They're spending a lot to grow... success might be lasting five years, sticking around that long."
That's a tall order for TIDAL, who's already received major backlash a week in from music lovers and some recording artists, including Lily Allen and Marina and the Diamonds, who labeled it "insanely transparent." Spotify is available in nearly 60 countries with a team of developers and engineers around the world ensuring its longevity. It remains the most popular streaming platform for a reason, and if TIDAL wants to change industry standards, they'll need to think of something more innovative than an inflated price tag and a handful of celebrity playlists.