No one pays for music anymore. Do you pay for music? Because I don’t, and neither should you.
This is why TIDAL, a new subscription-based streaming service, is as perplexing as it is pompous.
According to the New York Times, Jay Z acquired TIDAL’s parent company, Aspiro, back in March for a whopping $56 million. If I were Jay’s financial adviser, I would have quickly repented and reapplied for my CPA license.
The hyper-calculated social media storm that ensued following the acquisition was almost nauseating. Suddenly, Jay Z and crew had made their Twitter avatars blue. Mega stars from Arcade Fire to Kanye West to Coldplay began using the hashtag #TIDALforALL. Even stream-enemy and sales king Taylor Swift chimed in with support for the platform.
In May, Nicki Minaj released the highly anticipated video for “Feeling Myself,” featuring Mrs. Carter-Knowles herself, exclusively on TIDAL. With a Broad City-inspired color palette and a pool playette aesthetic, it was millennial pandering at its least subtle.
It’s easy to be fooled by TIDAL. It promises untethered access to the highest-selling musicians in the game, its aqua and charcoal website has a sleek and modern feel and it uses words such as “lossless” and “HiFi” to describe its auditory experience. Many of the artists involved have pledged to release content solely on TIDAL, making teenage Tumblr bloggers scramble to torrent clients in fear.
But this is to no avail. One thing TIDAL undeniably excels at is exclusivity. Whoever runs content over there should really look into a more lucrative career at Universal Pictures.
Three clicks into trying to find a free stream of 1993’s Jurassic Park, and I was staring point-blank into a high definition theater rip of this summer’s Jurassic World. Meanwhile, when “Feeling Myself” was first released, I couldn’t find a single version of the video anywhere on the Internet.
This aggressive approach to protecting intellectual property doesn’t tend to sit well with TIDAL’s heavily courted demographic. Those who complain about hiking tuition prices and plunging wages are not likely to casually drop $120 per year for an experiment in musical elitism. Something about this feels predatory.
Spotify has a look that is just as modern, and you can listen to music on it for free. Apple Music is naturalized onto your iPhone, and it boasts a catalog far more reaching than TIDAL’s.
But the major problem isn’t where other companies go right, it’s where TIDAL goes so wrong.
Its main push is music videos and “high fidelity” audio. If those two things don’t scream outdated to you, then please take the Boy Meets World poster shoved in the bottom of my closet; I think you’d enjoy it.
Videos are fun, but few are likely to pay $10 per month for four minutes of Nicki splashing Beyoncé in the face and laughing about it. Did you say high-fidelity audio? Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the booming bass of my Beats headphones playing free Spotify.
TIDAL wants us, desperately. But the way to get a second date from us isn’t making us pay for the first 12.
Adam Manno is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.