A lot has already been written about Jay-Z’s recently launched Tidal music service, in part because Tidal is making a bold bet that consumers will be on board with paying $20 a month for a streaming service when the already popular Spotify only charges $10. As a result, many industry insiders and observers have come straight out and said that Tidal is doomed to fail.
Industry analyst Bob Lefsetz, for instance, didn’t pull any punches in an email newsletter sent out two weeks ago.
“Now let me get this straight…piracy can be eradicated if artists just band together in the name of money?” Lefsetz wrote. “That’s what this is all about, cash. For the misguided artists who believe this is their financial savior but primarily for Jay Z, who’s using OPM (other people’s money) to have a big score.”
Indeed, the entire premise of Tidal is that it will shower artists and others involved in the recording process (producers, sound engineers) with bigger cuts of the streaming pie. And while that may very well be Jay-Z’s stated goal, that message was completely obfuscated by a poorly managed launch that left most people associating Tidal with big name artists simply looking for bigger paydays.
Echoing this sentiment, Mumford & Sons lead singer Marcus Mumford recently explained why he wouldn’t have joined Tidal even if the band was asked.
“We wouldn’t have joined it anyway, even if they had asked. We don’t want to be tribal,” Marcus Mumford said in an interview with NME. “I think smaller bands should get paid more for it. Bigger bands have other ways of making money, so I don’t think you can complain.”
“When they say it’s artist-owned, it’s owned by those rich, wealthy artists,” Mumford added. “I don’t want to align myself with Spotify, Beats, Tidal, or whatever. We want people to listen to our music in their most comfortable way, and if they’re not up for paying for it, I don’t really care.”
As it turns out, Mumfrod’s point of view isn’t all that unique. Striking a similar chord, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Benjamin Gibbard explained to The Daily Beast why the Tidal launch was done completely wrong and why the service is destined to crash and burn.
“If I had been Jay Z, I would have brought out ten artists that were underground or independent and said, ‘These are the people who are struggling to make a living in today’s music industry. Whereas this competitor streaming site pays this person 15 cents for X amount of streams, that same amount of streams on my site, on Tidal, will pay that artist this much,’” Gibbard says. “I think they totally blew it by bringing out a bunch of millionaires and billionaires and propping them up onstage and then having them all complain about not being paid.”
“There was a wonderful opportunity squandered to highlight what this service would mean for artists who are struggling and to make a plea to people’s hearts and pocketbooks to pay a little more for this service that was going to pay these artists a more reasonable streaming rate,” he continues. “And they didn’t do it. That’s why this thing is going to fail miserably.”
Gibbard makes an extremely strong point. To wit, you think of Tidal and this picture is liable to come to mind. Not exactly the type of artists that are in dire need of making some extra money.