OK, so I have a confession: I really like the idea behind Tidal. I think many artists are being perfectly reasonable when they say that streaming services such as Spotify are giving them a raw deal and that they would love to have a streaming service that pays them more for their work. Unfortunately, as we all know by now, Jay-Z’s Tidal service went about marketing itself in the worst way imaginable by having Kanye, Madonna, Nicki Minaj and other extremely rich artists come on stage and talk about how much other streaming services have been doing them wrong.
Fortunately, I do think there is a player on the market that can make the concept behind Tidal work if it plays its cards right: Namely, Apple’s Beats Music.
Let’s count the manifold advantages that Beats Music will have when it officially relaunches itself at WWDC this year:
- Beats cofounder Jimmy Iovine was a very smart acquihire on Apple’s part thanks to his extensive relationships in the music industry.
- Apple already has a history of successfully releasing albums exclusively to iTunes before any other platform gets them — remember Beyoncé’s acclaimed 2013 album if you need evidence.
- Last decade, Apple developed a healthy trust with artists thanks to the iTunes Store, which essentially saved the music industry from itself by giving consumers a simple way to purchase album tracks individually so they wouldn’t just rush off to Napster to get their music fixes.
- Apple customers are accustomed to paying more for products that they think deliver higher quality, which means Apple has some more flexibility when it comes to charging higher prices than Spotify if it chooses to do so.
What does all this add up to? Essentially, Apple has the reputation, the clout and the resources to really make a streaming service that artists can get behind. It has the connections and money to secure exclusive streaming deals with artists that could justify a higher price tag for its service than what people are now paying for Spotify. These higher prices could then pay out more per stream than what Spotify and Pandora are paying out, which would lead artists who are reluctant about putting their music on streaming services to come into the fold.
I have no idea if this is how Apple’s Beats Music relaunch will play out but it strikes me as a good way to pitch it to consumers… provided Apple doesn’t mess up like Tidal did and have Beyoncé promote it as a way to help her make more money. Instead, Apple should pitch Beats Music as the service where independent rappers, small-time garage bands, freelance jazz trumpeters and newly formed string quartets can have their music discovered while still giving them a fair deal.