JAY Z’s TIDAL WAVE: DEFINITELY WORTH SURFING

You might remember that in 2008, the proprietary, peer-to-peer music streaming service Spotify launched to near universal acclaim. (Spotify, along with Pandora, Google Play, and iHeartRadio represent some of the largest free music streaming sites out there). Initial reactionaries praised the downloadable application for its “speed, usability, and depth of songs.” In fact, in this country we wondered if Spotify was the much needed tourniquet to the American music industry which at that time, had seen better days following the torpedo attack that Napster had launched in 1999. What followed were steadily declining music industry profits.

Today, streaming continues to displace purchased music downloads, with track and album download sales dropping 12.5% and 9.4%, respectively, in 2014. Compare that to streaming, where SEA (streaming equivalent albums, or 1,500 streams of a record) were up by 56 million last year.

To continue this wake of change, later today (March 30, 2015) music mogul and innovator Jay Z (a/k/a Shawn Corey Carter) is throwing a splashy New York launch event at NYC’s James A. Farley Post Office building. The purpose? To announce—according to a press release—“a commitment to a new direction for the music industry from both a creative and business perspective.” This commitment is embodied in Jay Z’s $56.2 million investment in acquiring Aspiro, the Swedish parent company of two subscription streaming services; WiMP and Tidal. (Aspiro is a media technology company in the forefront of the ongoing redefinition of music consumption. Through the subscription services WiMP and TIDAL, Aspiro offers a complete experience of higher HiFi quality. This platform encompasses audio, video and integrated editorial features). In essence, the two services will now be operated under the name Tidal worldwide. The event, which will be live-streamed, will unveil “a new chapter” for the global streaming service.

Jay Z’s venture comes at a tumultuous time for the music streaming market. Apple is reportedly revamping its streaming music plan and the tech giant recently acquired Beats Music in order to better compete with Spotify. Thus, Jay Z is seeking to cater to those who are the entertainment consumers while simultaneously providing a better opportunity for artists to further promote their music. The game plan seems to be a strategic ambition in the pursuit of global expansion while up-scaling the platform, technology and services.

Tidal, a premium service geared toward audiophiles, calls itself the “first music streaming service that combines the best High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and expertly Curated Editorial.” Endorsing the venture are big names; Taylor Swift, Madonna, Jack White, country star Jason Aldean and Daft Punk. Additionally, Jay Z has cut deals with a host of artists — including those in the Roc Nation stable, such as Rihanna and Kanye West — to stream all of their content on the service. One music industry executive was quoted as saying that “Tidal isn’t just about streaming music. Users will be able will be access audio, video, social media, B-roll, merchandise, ticketing. Users will be able to have a special connection to the artists.” Tidal uses a high-fidelity streaming protocol that boasts better sound quality. There’s one more thing; Tidal is going to be the first minority-owned, artist-friendly streaming service.

There are compelling reasons why Tidal should be embraced: It charges $19.99 monthly for unlimited listening of high resolution music — with no free listening tier, although you can get a seven-day free trial. Tidal’s music quality offerings include 1411 kilobits per second lossless HiFi, which is equivalent to CD sound and considered higher quality than lower resolution levels of Spotify (320 kbps) and iTunes (256 kbps). Users can access Tidal on Android and iOS devices, computers and some home audio products including Sonos speakers and Tidal is purportedly poised to extend its reach into all corners of the globe with a rollout of operations into a further six markets; Poland, Australia, Hong Kong, Quatar, United Arab Emirates and Germany.

Tidal also boasts licenses with the major labels and a library of 25 million-plus tracks, 75,000 music videos, and curated editorial articles, features and interviews.

The strategy and foresight by Jay Z are impressive to say the least. Perhaps this venture will indeed provide a much needed infusion and boost for the music industry. Either way the ideas and vision are exciting win, lose or draw. Indeed, this might be the only Tidal wave in history that will be welcomed.

KEN “K BO” BIEDZYNSKI

Editor

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