If you keep up with certain extraordinarily popular stars of the music industry, you might have seen some profile pics on Facebook and Twitter replaced with solid blocks of blue, and cryptic messages accompanied by the hashtag #TIDALforALL. After the enormous success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge viral awareness campaign, you might imagine this is another social media fundraising effort.
You’d be wrong. This coalition of artists (including such names as Rihanna, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Usher, and Taylor Swift) is backing a far more noble cause: the ability to charge you large amounts of money for the privilege of streaming their music.
Welcome Jay-Z’s TIDAL, a music streaming service similar to the wildly-popular Spotify. Where Spotify offers free and premium subscriptions (a model supported mostly through advertisements), TIDAL will be available only to premium subscribers for a cost of $19.99 per month – double the cost of Spotify’s premium subscription.
So why would anyone pay to stream music when free services like Spotify and Pandora are available? Well, for one thing, TIDAL offers lossless tracks, which is a pretty big draw for audiophiles. But let’s be real, the average person isn’t worried about the audio quality in their Spotify playlists. No, TIDAL’s success will most likely depend on the support these artists can garner. If enough mega-stars follow Taylor Swift’s example and make their music available only through payment-based subscriptions, paid services could very easily become the norm.
There’s still one more big reason you might choose to support a subscription-only music streaming service over the constantly growing pool of free options – artist payouts. Legitimate concerns exist around programs like Spotify regarding artist payment, and like it or not, musicians need to get paid to keep making music. While I doubt Jay-Z or his band of supporters are hurting for cash, they have the right to make their work available where and how they see fit.
Of course, we get to choose whether or not we support their distribution methods.