COLUMN: The Tidal wave needs to be a big one for artists’ sake

“Will artists make more money? Even if it means less profit for our bottom line, absolutely.”



Alicia Keys shares the stage with the rest of the Tidal stakeholders.

Recently purchased by Jay Z, Tidal, a high-quality music streaming service, announced its launch Monday with an extensive group of powerful A-list stakeholders.

The service intends to bring music to fans and artists in a way that presents it in the way the creator meant for it to be heard. It also includes high quality video, expert curated playlists (a Beyoncé festival playlist? Yes, please) and editorial content.

To get the full effect, here’s the list of musician stakeholders in the service: Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Jay Z, Kanye West, deadmau5, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Usher.

The major critique of Tidal has surrounded money almost exclusively: a subscription is $9.99 for standard sound quality and $19.99 for Lossless High Fidelity sound quality. Compared to ad-supported free streaming, $20 is a pretty hefty sum.

And where is this money going? To these stakeholders who are already swimming in more money than they know what to do with?

Not exactly.

The purpose of Tidal is to take on the Internet era by starting a conversation about compensation for music creators and the people who receive virtually no payment for the consumption of their work.

“The producers and people who work on music are getting left out,” Jay Z told Billboard. “That’s when it starts getting criminal… In any other business people would be standing before Congress. They have antitrust laws against this kind of behavior.”

Jay Z and his partners seem to understand streaming is not a bad thing. The traditional album and the overall concept of purchasing a record in its entirety has very nearly become extinct.

But, as its critics pointed out, Tidal is about the money. What those so quick to discredit the service fail to admit, however, is where the money will be distributed. Tidal makes music about the producers, the writers, the people who work on the record, not just the performer.

“Will artists make more money?” Jay Z asked himself. “Even if it means less profit for our bottom line, absolutely. That’s easy for us. We can do that. Less profit for our bottom line, more money for the artist. Fantastic. Let’s do that today.”

The general intention of the service is not to compete with other streaming services, but how could it not? Given the choice to stream on a corporately owned platform such as Spotify or on an artist-owned service such as Tidal, a musician truly has only one choice.

“We’re talking about respecting the music and respecting the art,” Jay Z said, “and we can’t play around with that. So we need something that’s authentic and honest.”

Codi Mohr can be contacted at [email protected].