The Tidal Wave: Will Taylor Swift Debut her New Break Up Songs on Tidal?

 

Right now, it’s about basking in Jay Z’s business acumen, that one thing that even his ardent detractors never take a swing at. Nevermind selectively self-righteous articles calling out Jay-Z’s Tidal service for serving no one but his “own posse”. Forget what you think about his artistic output or political stances, Jay Z just hit another lick as a hip hop entrepreneur. Clap for ’em.

In the month of March, Jay Z’s Roc Nation sports agency signed prominent boxer Miguel Cotto, Dame Dash’s former adviser Keith Watson alleged S. Carter hedged unpaid music royalties into the Def Jam presidency, and he closed the month off by launching Tidal, a compelling music streaming service that threatens to strongarm a piece of a burgeoning market.

 

This isn’t just about Lucky Lefty winning again though, Tidal has sparked an alliance that could redefine the power of the artist in the music industry. He brought along his wife Beyonce, play Brother Kanye West, Madonna, and a host of other industry peers as co-owners. When you have a relationship with certain artists, you might be guaranteed a nice feature or beat for your project. When you have a relationship with Jay Z, you might get a couple million dollars.

The Tidal service offers a viable alternative to industry giant Spotify, representing yet another example of what can happen when prominent artists align their interests and resolve to take on the machine, utilizing their indispensable resource: the people.

On the day of the launch, Jay Z once again made inventive, practical use of social media and the blogosphere. While most artists use the internet to subtweet and turn off their fans, Tidal created a rallying hashtag that made consumers feel in on the ground floor, then threw a press conference that was watched just because of the starpower.

Beyond the celebrity hoopla, Tidal actually offers a quality service, if not the best in its market. This isn’t Dr. Dre putting his name on $300 headphones that he probably doesn’t even use to mix songs (look out for Detox, yall), Tidal can actually become the preferred service for audiophiles. While Spotify and Tidal share the same interface, Tidal streams music at a significantly higher bitrate, allowing for a musical experience that’s closer to studio quality than Spotify or any other service currently on the market.

Tidal & Spotify side-by-side UI comparison.

Tidal & Spotify side-by-side UI comparison.

Additionally, Tidal offers video content that Spotify currently doesn’t. Along with video playback, Spotify now also lacks music from industry stalwarts: Jay Z, Madonna, Beyonce, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Daft Punk, Rihanna, Usher, Coldplay, Nicki Minaj and more. The absence of what amounts to a murderer’s row of pop culture icons strikes a significant blow to Spotify’s vitality.

Taylor Swift’s catalog in particular is a coveted asset. Swift pulled her music from Spotify in 2014, noting “On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.” Tidal not only values a musician’s creation, it’s putting that value directly in their pockets, which Spotify didn’t.

Between taking advantage of diehard fan bases that may buy just because their heroes’ twitter avatar is blue, and offering a superior product, Tidal has a good chance to be another successful business venture for Jay Z, and the first in the portfolio of newschoolers Nicki Minaj and J.Cole.

The launch of the service is also a harbinger of things to come in an industry Jay Z once likened to “the wild west”. Surprise albums are just the beginning. J. Cole has already released “The Warmup 2” on the service.  Can we also expect more exclusive content from Tidal co-owners? Will an abundance of streaming services revolutionize the standard approach to crafting projects? Will Taylor Swift debut her breakup songs on Tidal?

The music industries’ rules are changing, there are new revenue streams, and artists are showing the agency to exploit the direct to consumer relationship the internet offers. Branding can turn a molehill into a mountain. Few were brand conscious when it came to headphones until Dr. Dre lent his name to Beats and a host of other stars supported. Similar could happen with a service owned by the most prominent names in music.

Detractors of Tidal have criticized it in part for being artist owned, but ideally isn’t everyone supposed to own their product? Globalism, especially in hip hop, needs to be embraced. The corporations that sign these artists are all results of mergers and acquisitions, because the 1% realizes more money can be made together. Why criticize the artist for emulating their bosses?

Labels have traditionally made the lion’s share from music, but a venture such as Tidal represents the dawn of a day where artists are taking their creativity, and their revenue, into their own hands. Jay Z may no longer lead the league in six statistical categories, but he’s certainly top 3 when it comes to commodifying hip hop. With more decisions such as Tidal, it’s only a matter of time before he reaches that Billy he desires.