The online radio business is becoming even more crowded, with Monday’s announcement that hip-hop business mogul Jay-Z is launching Tidal, his own streaming audio service.
The new subscription music service will face off with an array of free and paid subscription rivals, including Spotify, Beats Music and iTunes Radio.
The launch of Tidal was announced in New York City with support from a glittering constellation of music stars who appeared on stage with Jay-Z at the event, including his wife Beyoncé, Kanye West, Rihanna, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Madonna, Daft Punk and Jack White.
A coordinated social media campaign by these stars and other music artists, like Coldplay, promoted the service by turning their profile pictures the Tidal brand’s shade of light blue.
According to the company, the new service will offer access to over 25 million different audio tracks with high-fidelity sound optimized for 16-bit delivery. The service, which also includes music videos, costs $19.99 per month.
By comparison, Spotify and Beats by Dre both offering premium subscriptions costing $9.99 per month.
Tidal is based on the streaming audio platform of the same name created by Aspiro, which Jay-Z acquired for $56 million last month. Ever since the acquisition, rumors of a new music service have swirled, fueled by reports of a meeting involving many of the above-named celebrities.
The plans to relaunch Tidal under Jay-Z’s aegis were officially revealed last week.
As noted, the launch of Tidal puts Jay-Z in competition with, among others, fellow hip-hop business impresario Dr. Dre, who sold his premium digital headset business, Beats Electronics, and associated subscription streaming music platform Beats Music to Apple for $3 billion in May 2014. The hip-hop star remained with his company and joined Apple as part of the deal.
This is an interesting move by Jay-Z. Obviously he is an intelligent businessman along with artist. Yet a two things seem to be off about this move. The first is the price. Many people can get a large amount of music for free off of websites such as SoundCloud and Youtube. Also, Pandora and Spotify offer free music streaming already. Once someone makes the decision to jump to a premium service, that is already a push. Yet people do it. However, the price is almost doubled on Jay-Z's music streaming service. Will people pay double when it is already a jump to pay the $9.99? The second major problem that seems to stick out is the benefits offered by the service. The two main benefits seem to be the inclusion of music videos and "high-fidelity sound optimized for 16-bit delivery. It would be fair to assume that the majority of people do not understand nor care about 16-bit quality music. Also, the music streaming should be what the name entails, a constant stream of music. Not music videos here and there. Once again, one can go to Youtube or other video websites for music videos. Overall still interesting, yet seemingly flawed due to the price and features.
The price is the first thing that catches my eye. I have read though that there are two pricing tiers; $9.99 (more akin to other streaming services, still more than free) & the premium $19.99 per month. This is where the high-resolution audio, and more exclusive content live. I don't know if the average listener gets caught up with bit rate. The "fight" with Spotify still trying to bring on musicians with its free, ad-supported model (which artists don't like) and Apple looking to relaunch iTunes as a streaming service with its acquisition of Beats, it may well come down to if it's about the artist getting paid more or the consumers who are being asked to pay more? What will win out? When the tidal wave of the behind the scenes wars and what consumers want hit shore we may then see if Tidal was able to successfully ride the wave.