The state of the music industry's two newest streaming services.
It all seemed like fantastic, luxurious, one-percent-y fun and games during the initial TIDAL press conference. Music mogul Sean “Jay-Z” Carter’s launched his rebranding of the year-old streaming service he had recently acquired by strutting out stars of meteoric magnitude, both young and old, shuffled out like battling champions in a proverbial game of thrones.
Like a "Song of Ice and Fire," the words burned like an effigy as the music industry (critics, artists, and fans alike) were urged to brace themselves for something new.
“Throughout history, every movement began with a few individuals banding together with a shared vision – a vision to change the status quo.
That vision came to life with a first step. Our first step begins today through the platform TIDAL.
TIDAL is an artist majority-owned company with a mission to re-establish the value of music and protect the sustainability of the music industry rooted in creativity and expression.
As part of our vision to introduce change to the current system, we will continue expanding this platform into an all-encompassing destination in the coming months. We are working diligently everyday to enhance the overall service.
We want our mission with TIDAL to spark conversation and lay a foundation for tomorrow’s burgeoning stars.
Our movement is being led by a few who are inviting all to band together for a common cause, a movement to change the status quo.
Today marks the next step.”
That just oozes the sort of confidence that usually is reserved for the filthy rich, doesn’t it?
And despite Jay-Z’s being filthy rich, the rap game's favorite businessman's latest venture has been as tumultuous as the type of wave it’s named after. The platform received a quick makeover after being purchased by Jay’s Project Panther Ltd. company, and then later, a major makeover and a marketing process, which has arguably done more harm than good, despite the service’s impressive roster.
Introduced at the initial press conference in March that served as a sort of reboot for the existing TIDAL service, a squad including but not limited to juggernauts of industry like Alicia Keys, Usher, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and Kanye West, were introduced as "owners." The emphasis was calculated, as being the first artist-owned streaming service that guarantees artist compensation was one of the main missions that acted as a lynch pin in separating TIDAL from other services like Pandora and Spotify. With aspects like this, and HiFi audio quality (really only discernable through higher-end headphone sets not normally owned or even affordable by a large chunk of the market), began the initial flood of criticism against TIDAL. Sure, they nabbed some of the biggest names in music - but they also nabbed some of the wealthiest names in music who already seemingly don’t adhere to the confines of their labels; and with its foundation of exclusive music being rather thin, priced at $20 a month, TIDAL hardly seemed worth it.
Then Apple had to come through like Fortinbras at the end of Hamlet (spoiler alert!) and kill any hopes of TIDAL not looking like a tragedy of epic proportion.
If Apple Music is Apple (duh), then let’s say Spotify is Android. At this rate, as TIDAL rushes to plug holes in its plan and public image, it would be safe to say that TIDAL is the sour stigma-riddled Blackberrys of yesteryear. Despite their efforts, criticism pervades TIDAL, whether it be in regards to the fact that they are twice as expensive than the more-vast library Spotify offers, or their entirely white staff in Stockholm. Although the company has overhauled their entire staff-- including their former CEO-- Hov and company can’t seem to stop the bleeding.
The brand new Apple Music service apparently has no problem twisting the blade deeper or pouring salt on the hemorrhaging wounds TIDAL sports. Since rumors first began swirling about TIDAL, rapper/entertainer Drake’s name was tossed around before being noticeably absent from the aforementioned kick-off conference. It wasn’t before long that additional rumors bubbled over, framing Drizzy as the ‘apple’ of Apple Music’s eye (see what I did there?). Before long, Drake led a conference of his own, this time ushering in the next phase of streaming music from the most recognizable brand in home entertainment and gadgetry. Apple, which already has, perhaps, more brand loyalty than any other company out there, had no problem one-upping Hov. Carter stacked his roster with some of hip-hop’s hottest names, but how could he compare to, not only a roster that includes living legends like Drake, Dr. Dre, and Pharrell-- but a service that offers weekly intimate radio shows hosted by those very same legends? He can’t. Spontaneous perks TIDAL provided, like the live stream of HOT 97’s Summer Jam, were fleeting and overpriced in a way that alienates its market. Conversely, Apple Music-- whose similar sudden emergence to the streaming music mountain top harkens to TIDAL’s-- provides self-sustaining content that speaks directly to its audience both literally and in its multi-faceted price program.
For every Summer Jam from TIDAL, there’s a handful of Beats 1 Radio shows from Apple Music. For every Lil Wayne and hypothetical TIDAL Tour, there’s, as much as it pains me to say it, a Taylor Swift, and scheduled radio events for Apple Music, infinitely into the future. TIDAL floundered their head-start over Apple by false-starting. Now, with Apple Music’s launch, TIDAL scours the ocean of the music industry in search for a lifeline (and a CEO!) to compete.
The thing is, in this battle of brands, much like the "Game of Thrones," a winner must emerge. With so many options and a young demographic to boot, in all likelihood there will not be many who subscribe to multiple platforms. Time will tell who will sit rightfully on the Iron Throne. Right now, though, TIDAL is washing the egg off their face as Apple washes the blood of battle of their hands while listening to Beats Radio 1.
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