This afternoon Jay Z held a press conference officially relaunching Tidal, the subscription music streaming service he recently acquired for $56 million.
Jay Z was joined onstage by a staggering cast of the world’s most famous musicians who were introduced as part-owners of the new venture. Among them were Beyonce, Kanye West, Daft Punk, J. Cole, Rihanna, Madonna, Deadmau5, Jack White, Jason Aldean, Usher, and two members of Arcade Fire.
The presentation itself was beyond strange. They were certainly shooting for an Apple keynote feel, but instead it unfolded like a weird dream: Each of those megawatt musicians came onstage one by one to a tiny amount of applause. Alicia Keys gave speech about history or music or something. Then Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” played as they all signed a document, each musician passing the pen to the next signee. Coldplay’s Chris Martin was Skyped in, but nobody knows why.
Then it just ended. The audio cut out, the lights dimmed, and they all walked offstage together.
So what did we learn? Not a lot.
Tidal will offer lossless-quality audio and feature exclusive content. There will be no free version. Pay either $19.99 per month for exclusive content and “CD-quality” streams or $9.99 a month for a compressed format (the latter was announced during the press conference today). We also learned that the doubled royalty rate only applies to premium subscriptions. The standard subscription only gets you standard-def audio and only pays artists standard royalties.
Though the competing service was never named, this is all a clear move to poach Spotify’s user base. Music’s biggest names (and biggest labels) have increasingly decried the industry’s royalty model for streaming. They’re also vying for a bigger bite of the huge spike in streaming. Spotify, unsurprisingly, has fired back.
Despite the blinding star power onstage at today’s announcement, I still have lots of questions:
- Why is nobody talking about Tidal’s blatant UI plagiarism?
- Can I sync this lossless audio onto my Toblerone?
- Jay Z & Friends seem awfully committed to artistry. Why didn’t they license The Haxan Cloak? Were the royalties too high?
- Is everyone aware that Calvin Harris, who was also standing onstage today, recently inked a three-year contract with a Vegas casino that will likely net him $400,000 per show? That bears repeating: Calvin Harris is about to earn four hundred thousand American dollars per show for three years, guaranteed. He would also like you to pay more to hear his songs.
- Does Calvin Harris even bother cashing his Spotify checks?
- What exactly were all those famous people signing onstage?
- The orignal livestream featured Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” playing overhead during the signing. They have since removed that audio. Radiohead once called Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” Coincidence?
- When Beats launches sometime within the next few months, will Tidal be drowned by Apple’s tidal wave of cash?
Tidal is now open and available to subscribers, of which there are currently 17,000.