Meandering my way through a TIDAL review.

Ease of access to music online has put a severe dent in the music market. Hop Hop artists want to sing about the money, but what are they going to do if they can’t really get it? Enter streaming services. Artists get paid based on ad revenue and premium fees. At this point, Spotify, Tidal, and Apple are contenders in the same market, though some streaming services are doing better than others. Today, I’ll be taking a look at Jay Z’s TIDAL. A few months ago, Jay Z caused a stir when he bought the music company Aspiro for 56 million dollars. He was entering the music streaming market with the company’s streaming service TIDAL, and in my mind the game was over for Spotify. I was completely wrong.

TIDAL offers a one month free trial when you sign up for one of their plans, at $9.99 a month and $19.99. I signed up for the 19.99 plan, which offers lossless high fidelity sound, high quality music videos, and expertly curated content. You can choose to pay with credit card or PayPal. I chose PayPal.

TIDAL advertisements were everywhere. High profile artists in high quality videos sat around boardroom tables, and talked about revolutionary moments. TIDAL was about putting money back in the hands of artists, which many of them having stake in the service itself. This made sense to me, as they were the ones producing the music we so badly craved. Others cursed this; “they already have money, they don’t need more”. However, the prices are pretty fair. The lower end $9.99 a month plan is the price of a meal in Toronto, not even a good one at that. Students also get further discounts, which slash the prices in half for both plans. I decided to take in TIDAL’s services in a few different ways.

For the most part, I’m a Spotify-er, and I listen to my music in the background as I complete household activities. TIDAL would have to be treated in the same nonchalant way. I decided to make most of my trial and listened to Lil Wayne’s exclusive Tidal released album FWA (Free Weezy Album).  TIDAL is meant to have lossless streaming and high fidelity sound. As I listened, I couldn’t really tell the difference. As someone who listens to music in the background, I couldn’t care less. Indeed, tests done with users demonstrate that we can’t really tell the difference. I listen to music on my laptop, or through my shitty headphones. If I was listening through better headphones, or had a quality stereo system, it may have made a difference. I don’t know that a $19.99 price tag for quality matters when I’m busy folding laundry away; my freshly laundered socks don’t seem to care much. Offline streaming capability, on the other hand, makes a world of difference during tedious subway rides. As I listened to Lil Wayne croon in the background, I was most interrupted when he stopped. I looked back at my computer. The lossless audio was lost. It didn’t happen again, and started within a few seconds, but I was disappointed. For some reason, I expected a lot more from Jay, even though I’ve never expected the same from Spotify.

It seemed that the world did as well. TIDAL revealed itself as owned by artists, and fans raged about it. They saw greed, rather than due. Tidal was money hungry with their subscription fees, which were higher than other streaming services like Spotify. In order to curb anger about TIDAL, Jay Z even had to create a Twitter account. Most of his tweets are about how TIDAL isn’t evil.

One of the main components to Jay’s TIDAL is video, and artist curated content. You can check out popular artist videos, behind the scenes cuts, and access playlists created by artists and users. This is the portion that involved me stepping away from the world and sitting down to pay attention. Fine, I could do that- it meant watching the exclusively released “Feeling Myself” by Nicki Minaj and Beyonce. That video is a must watch, by the way. “Feeling Myself” was a gateway drug into the world of TIDAL video. My sister was out that night, but came home to me still glued to my computer, watching J.Cole lead a revolution in “G.O.M.D.”. She sat down for a second, and we watched “Feeling Myself” again. It was only when my eyes started burning that I knew I needed to stop. I discovered new music, watched my favourite artists, and felt like I was on a Netflix binge. Video is often underrated when it comes to streaming services, so this was a breathe of fresh air. A lack of ads, video, and all the music that I wanted made TIDAL a contender against Spotify. I found all my favourite artists, and had access to videos and extras that I don’t have on Spotify. Is it worth getting the service for a month, at the price of foregoing lunch? That depends on how hungry you are.

Presently, TIDAL isn’t doing well. I think this has to do with the way it was marketed. High profile artists were looking our for themselves, not the little guy, as they clinked glasses and sipped champagne. Furthermore, the little guy isn’t just a lesser known artist, but represents consumers without the funds to pay for services like this. Many will take the ads over the high quality sound any day.

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9 thoughts on “Meandering my way through a TIDAL review.

  1. This was a really great review. It’s in line with a lot of the criticisms I’ve heard of TIDAL. I haven’t gotten the chance to try out TIDAL myself but I get the impression that it acts like the “designer brand” of the streaming services. They are going after people who are willing to spend extra on the name and a few bonuses but it doesn’t seem like it will ever be as successful as Apple Music of Spotify in the mainstream.
    I think the real problem was in the way they marketed it. People don’t really care if the wealthiest musicians in the world make more money. While the artist owner aspect is a great idea its hard for people to sympathize with people who are worth hundreds of millions. I think downplaying the artist ownership aspect and focusing on the higher quality audio or bonus features would have initially worked better for TIDAL, and would have given them more leverage for benefit the artists on the service.

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    1. I definitely agreed that they marketed it wrong. TIDAL will tell you that it’s all about the little guy- and it is when you read up on them. They didn’t share this information when they first came out, and after everyone had cast their judgements, they shared that info way too late. You’d think that Jay-Z, business mastermind that he is, would have known better.

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  2. I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that Jay-Z paid 56 million dollars for Aspiro. I also am a firm spotify-er and unfortunately for Tidal, I have never felt the urge to cross to their side. I am one of those individuals who thinks that this is not a movement, rather a scheme for the musicians to make more cash. I also found the advert a little self-congratulatory and conceited and it didn’t feel especially aimed at the consumer.

    Given this and the fairly poor review of Tidal plus your personal account, I am sticking with spotify. I love the conveniece and ease of spotify and Tidal doesn’t appear to offer enough difference for me to move my business over.

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  3. I agree that the marketing certainly could have been done better but this was a great eye opening review to other aspects, specifically the video portion which interested me. Also the fact that artists would create their own playlists as I’d be interested to see what someone like Jay Z or J cole is listening to currently. Great review.

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  4. I remember seeing the product launch for TIDAL… probably the worst launch we will see this year. The problem is they waited to enter the market after Spotify had claimed a huge stake and set it’s pricing strategy.

    The streaming industry is playing by Spotify’s pricing, everyone is going in at $9.99, TIDAL can’t justify that higher price point.

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    1. Totally agree Mark. Students can get the higher priced $20.00 package at a $9.99 price tag, but when you’ve already spent time cultivating your music on Spotify, it’s exhausting to have to do it all over again. Especially when it’s just too hard to tell the difference in creativity.

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  5. It’s one of the rare things that Jay-Z hasn’t got right (yet) but I’m sure he should and will turn it around. Also I think it’s hard to get dedicated Spotify users on to a new platform, I mean who wants to build a playlist all over again that you have so carefully curated and nurtured over time? There has to be some sort of consolidation happening soon between platforms else no one will ever switch I feel. Great post, thanks for sharing, Bhumika!

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