A TIDAL of Criticism: Do we really need another streaming service?

(Originally written for Latitude Lookout, Extended)

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Back in the day, when we were growing up, the CD was the emerging technology as told by my Ricky Martin and Britney Spears cassettes (stop judging me!), but in the last five years streaming has been the main way that people consume music as a cheaper alternative. Also, April was the launch of Jay-Z’s latest business venture TIDAL, a premium streaming service which promised to pay artists better than their current rates with other streaming services such as Spotify.

As students that spend ridiculous amounts of time with laptops writing essays, streaming services can be helpful as you can make your own playlists of the latest songs to soundtrack your research sessions in Stockwell Street. Plus, the extra bonus of being free in many cases (the ultimate student discount) meaning that millions of people stream for free, with only a fraction paying for premium (often ad free and exclusive content) accounts.

For the artist, streaming doesn’t contribute much financially, however it is a great tool for upcoming artists to be discovered. An example of this is one of last year’s biggest selling singles ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams which was streamed on Pandora 43 million times and yet he saw less than $3000 in song writing royalties. This works out to be 0.00007 cents per play. Songwriters normally earn around 40% of the overall earnings from record sales whether physical or digital thus this is a massive drop in revenue.

Due to this some artists have decided to boycott certain streaming services due to being unhappy with the pay-out, such as when Taylor Swift removed her catalogue from Spotify stating to Time Magazine in November “I think there should be an inherent value placed on art.” While other, not as influential artists are criticized for being money hungry, she was praised for being a strong female figure for having her voice heard and making an impact.

This is where TIDAL comes in, for the people and delivered by the biggest artists in the industry, treaty and all, the service promises exclusives, both musically, visually and with editorial content. The idea of TIDAL is to cater more to the artist, add value to the art by paying the artist more royalties. Most people have criticized this for being selfish, however they are no different than Swift, in fact making a bigger splash by appeasing the artist and the customer.

With the launch of more premium streaming services such as Apple Music and TIDAL, listeners don’t have the option of free service and must pay to access the catalogue and exclusive content, thus paying for their art. As we can find most music somewhere for free we tend to forget that music costs a lot of money to make. So it’s not much to ask for a streaming service to ask for £10 a month while also giving pretty decent trial periods so that the customer can get the full experience before committing to the payment.

With over a dozen different music streaming service and many of them free, there seems to be a flood of options to choose from. But with free options and free trials, there seems like too much complaining from consumers. With each service offering ad free content and exclusives, TIDAL offers a premium lossless audio premium for £20 p/m making them a unique service, there seems like more than enough room on the market for the billions of people who are looking for a streaming service.

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