What is the deal with the Tidal music streaming movement.
I use the term "movement" because some of music's biggest acts united together for the sake of promoting and nurturing their art.
On Monday at 5 pm EST, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, Usher, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Deadmau5, Madonna, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, Coldplay and more joined Jay-Z in his effort to promote fair trade in music and improve the free vs. paid system at the Tidal launch press conference.
The streaming service will compete with Spotify who offers music content for considerably cheaper (Tidal offers a $19.99 a month subscription for lossless quality streaming or standard streaming at $9.99 a month). But is the extra few dollars per month enough to turn music lovers off entirely and stick with what they know? Or will Tidal become the next wave in music innovation.
Jay-Z sat down with Billboard to candidly chat about his service that the artists mentioned above like Madonna, Beyonce, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are part owner of.
Here are the best Q&As from Jay-Z's interview:
- Musicians have long complained that streaming has rendered music virtually worthless. It doesn’t sound like you’re solely driven by financial reasons, but also by a desire to reset the value proposition of music.
That’s correct, absolutely, and when I spoke to every single person involved that’s what I said. Music is … imagine your life without music. It’s a very valuable part of your life, and like I said, that’s why we got in this business. It seems to be going the other way. People are not respecting the music, and [are] devaluing it and devaluing what it really means. People really feel like music is free, but will pay $6 for water. You can drink water free out of the tap, and it’s good water. But they’re OK paying for it. It’s just the mind-set right now.
- The list of your partners is going to surprise quite a few people. How did you get them involved? Was it as simple as going out and saying, “This is our chance to turn the tide against this thing that’s happening”?
Yeah, pretty much. I talked to everyone one on one about music and about what they would like to see in a service, and how would they like this to go. I wanted to know if they were willing to take a chance, since everyone’s names are attached and their reputations, too.
And I just believe as long as we’re on the side of right, and we’re in this for the right reasons, it will work. It’s just a big opportunity for everyone -- not a thing that belongs to any one person. That’s not fair, that’s not a democratic process, and that isn’t the idea behind it.
- Isn’t another of your goals to make sure the revenue makes its way down the food chain to content creators?
Definitely. For someone like me, I can go on tour. But what about the people working on the record, the content creators and not just the artists? If they’re not being compensated properly, then I think we’ll lose some writers and producers and people like that who depend on fair trade. Some would probably have to take another job, and I think we’ll lose some great writers in the process. Is it fair? No. If you put in work, everyone else, you go to work you get paid. That’s fair trade. It’s what our country is built on.
I’m just saying the producers and people who work on music are getting left out -- that’s when it starts getting criminal. It’s like you’re working hard and you’re not receiving. In any other business people would be standing before Congress. They have antitrust laws against this kind of behavior. It almost seems like when it applies to music no one really cares who’s cheated. It’s so disorganized; it’s so disconnected from reality.
- Are you going after the high-end audiophile or just people who care enough about music to pay almost twice as much for the service?
We want it to be open to everyone. So yeah, that would be part of it, but the pricing will be tiered, because we want to present it to as many people as possible. But it definitely appeals to people who really care about the music and want to hear it the way it’s intended. And hopefully some day with technology we figure out how to deliver that high-def sound, maybe even in a $9.99 model. Who knows what the future holds.
- So, Tidal launches today. Creatively, what do you hope happens, beginning tomorrow?
Artists come here and start making songs 18 minutes long, or whatever. I know this is going to sound crazy, but maybe they start attempting to make a “Like a Rolling Stone,” you know, a song that doesn’t have a recognizable hook, but is still considered one of the greatest songs of all time, the freedom that this platform will allow art to flourish here. And we’re encouraging people to put it in any format they like. It doesn't have to be three minutes and 30 seconds. What if it’s a minute and 17, what if it’s 11; you know, just break format. What if it’s just four minutes of just music and then you start rapping?
- Is it the same equity across the board?
Yes. We’re super-transparent, and I think that’s part of it. We want to be transparent, we want to give people their data; they can see it. If somebody streams your record in Iowa, you see it. No more shell games. Just transparency.
So the founding members all got the same equity, and now we have a second round and everyone gets the same in that one as well, but it’s not as large as the first tier. We want to keep it going. We want to make this thing successful and then create another round and another round. That’s the dream, that’s the utopia. Everyone is sharing in it; everyone is some kind of owner in it in some kind of way.
- What’s been the response from the labels?
I think the labels were a bit suspicious that we were creating a record company. It’s not a record company; if anything, it’s a record store. I have a record company. I don’t want another label. I’m happy with what I’m doing. But some were suspicious. We had talks, like, “Man, you guys also ought to bless this talent. We want you to be involved in this thing as well.” Again, we’re not even against other streaming companies. We want everyone to do well. We just want to carve out our section and let our voice be heard.
So yeah, I think there is a bit of paranoia in the beginning and there may still be, and I think we’ll work through that because it will be a very difficult thing for a label to tell artists when they’re streaming their music everywhere else that they won’t stream it on an artist-owned platform. I don’t see how any label can stand in front of anyone and justify that.
- The stature of artists you have aligned with virtually assures that freedom. Are the artists going to provide exclusive tracks or release windows on future work?
Well, it’s up to the artist. You know, there’s a thing now, it’s called the album cycle. You put your single out, promote it, then another single -- I think that now for an artist an album cycle doesn’t have to end. They’re on Instagram and Twitter and all these things, so we’re just talking about ways of extending that album cycle, and it could be anything. What if it’s a video offering tickets to the next concert, or what if it’s audio or video of the recording process? It could be anything. It could be them at home listening to songs that inspire them. Anything they want to offer, you know; just be as creative as possible, that’s the only charge, really. Make it look really good and make everyone that consumes it think, “Man, I got something really great.” Treat the people with respect; make it memorable.
- Twelve months from now, what would be your definition of success with Tidal? It doesn’t sound like it’s a financial benchmark.
If everyone says, “Wow, so many things have changed. This has gotten better. I like what's happening.” If Aloe Blacc and his writers, the guys he wrote with, are not seeing a $4,000 check from 168 million streams.
They did their job, they worked, they done it. The people loved it, the people consumed it. Where’d it go? People didn’t pay or stream Aloe Blacc’s music for it to turn into vapor and go into the air. Where is it?
If in 12 months everyone is having that discussion and a dialogue, and everyone is understanding that streaming’s not a bad thing, I’m happy. Let’s embrace what’s coming up next. When the biggest distributor of downloads says they’re going to start a streaming company, I mean, I don’t know what more you need to know that it’s the next format.
- Can you say definitively that they are going to make more money from Tidal than Spotify?
It’s not me against Spotify, but for us, you know, just the idea of the way we came into it, with everyone having equity, will open the dialogue — whether it be with the labels, the publishers or whoever,
I think it’s those sorts of conversations that need to be had, and again, not by forcing anyone to do it. We're not forcing anyone to do anything, we're just introducing ideas, and I don't know, maybe someone else comes up with the idea. Maybe someone from the label comes up with the idea, maybe a lawyer; someone finds a bunch of different things that we think will work.
Will artists make more money? Even if it means less profit for our bottom line, absolutely. That’s easy for us. We can do that. Less profit for our bottom line, more money for the artist; fantastic. Let’s do that today.
Jordan @ BreatheHeavy: You might be thinking, 'Why would I pay $20 a month for something I can get with Spotify for free?' I personally feel we’ve been spoiled with “free” music for years now. That changed the industry big time, in some good ways, some bad. Artists here are uniting and taking things into their own hands - it’s a movement in music, and YOU are lucky enough to be a part of that movement. $20 a month for lossless quality music? Brilliant!
All the artists supporting this new streaming service are rich as hell. They don’t need the money. They have a vision to improve the free vs. paid system and promote fair trade. If the move is successful, of course there will be monetary gain for them. And why shouldn’t there be? But I don’t think any of them joined the movement because they thought they’d see a fat check.