Tirhakah Love (@catalytic92)
For a guy who boasts, “I can sell ice in the winter, sell fire in hell,” Jay Z is having a pretty rough time convincing us to buy into Tidal, his newly acquired music streaming service that is supposed to be the democratic counterpart to Spotify’s King George III level tyranny. So Hov assembled his Avengers and decided to hold an open illuminati meeting for the world to achieve Loki levels of envy. It’s safe to say that Jay assumed bringing together what Sam Biddle at Gawker quipped, damn near the” entire music industry” for this presser would cause us lay-folk to blindly hop on board. I mean it did work for his last capitalist musical, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” but today’s music listener is a bit more savvy, or at least that’s what we like to believe. We may not have listened to all the rules of the game, but hip-hop legend Q-Tip reminded us:
Tidal’s campaign launch—#TIDALFORALL—at least on the surface seems to be combatting the California palm tree shadiness of the record industry by being as transparent as possible about who’s getting paid what amount. But there’s a fundamental problem with this democratic framing: Industry democracy only works when those with influence are honest with those they claim to represent. Unfortunately, this campaign falls on deaf ears because the artists are representing themselves and their interests–which, honestly, on its own is probably fine. But coupled with the blasphemous $19.99/month price this money grab is so blatantly obvious that Jay and his fellow illuminati-ers (luminaires?) are going to have to quickly pick up the pieces if they want this whole anti-Spotify thing to work. Luckily, I have a few quick and easy solutions that may add some American-bred democracy in this silly oligarchy.
- Recruit smaller, more localized talent
This might be unfairly anachronistic since the presser already happened, but moving forward, Jay and his business partners should try their best to seem less like business partners. The amount of star power on that stage was so fucking overwhelming, any claim that Tidal is FOR ALL just feels condescendingly dishonest. To be fair, getting all these stars to hop on board is an accomplishment that shows how much sway Jay and (let’s be real) Bey have on the industry as a whole. But they fail in appealing to folks who are closer to Bedstuy than Tribeca. Not to mention, every one of the artists, except maybe Jermaine “grassroots” Cole, has been in the industry for more than a decade and have solidified their staying power—let’s just say, the IRS ain’t coming after them any time soon. Perhaps recruiting talent like Pro Era, Odd Future, Chance the Rapper; or non-hip hop artists like Beck or bassist Esperanza Spalding could inspire buyers who aren’t interested in making the pop upper class even more disenchanted. These artists who actually stand to gain more prominence and benefit from the price hike could legitimize Tidal as a talent funnel rather than a pocket stuffer.
- Heavily push the $9.99/month Service Plan
This step may be a bit difficult because everyone is talking about the $19.99/month package. Maybe Bey’s Hive, Nicki’s Barbies, and Madonna’s…uhm…Donnettes(?) flash mob the interwebs using the $9.99 as a come-to-the-altar moment. The price difference is based on the arbitrary idea that the sound quality of the premium package will be leaps and bounds better than that of the standard. Many DJ’s will tell you that sound is one of the harder waves to technologically advance over time; the highest quality sounds we’ve heard were on boom boxes in the 1980s. Yes, that’s right, even Beats owners are not necessarily hearing a better sound—instead sound technicians are pretty damn good at emphasizing certain aspects of sound like bass or treble to create unique but not advanced sounds.
Also just on principle, everything online is $9.99. How Jay? How could you be so far removed? Oh wait…you’re really rich.
- Don’t do shit like this:
You aren’t “changing the course of history,” you’re just putting a different name in front of the same old moneymaking tactic and you’re not even being remotely smooth about it.
- If you’re stuck on $19.99, offer cooler stuff
Currently, Tidal premium members receive “exclusive experiences” including live footage of performances, interviews, and artist (read: intern)-curated playlists. I don’t know if Jay and company have heard of it but fans can watch live performances via artist’s Vevo channels, watch interviews on YouTube, and must seriously question if an additional 10 bucks is worth hearing Daft Punk’s electronic dance gospel playlists. If this package is going to be seriously “premium” there must be exclusives that actually make people feel like they’re in the VIP. One option is to actually offer premium users VIP passes for live performances in their cities—an alternative that isn’t costly but legitimately compelling and simultaneously does what Tidal aims to do–bring the artist and their fans closer. This option also works very well with promotion companies like LiveNation who are already in cahoots with Tidal’s artists.
- Actual transparency
When asked (via Complex mag) about the equity of the artists and where the money is going Jay responded with:
“We’re super-transparent, and I think that’s part of it. We want to be transparent, we want to give people their data; they can see it. If somebody streams your record in Iowa, you see it. No more shell games. Just transparency. So the funding members all got the same equity, and now we have a second round and everyone gets the
same in that one as well, but it’s not as large as the first tier. We want to keep it going. We want to make this thing successful…That’s the dream, that’s the utopia. Everyone is sharing in it; everyone is some kind of owner in it in some kind of way.”
When it comes to transparency, Jay ain’t got the answers. Hov makes it sound like Tidal is the streaming equivalent to socialism. I don’t anticipate Bill Gates announcing Microsoft’s new “spread the wealth” program That doesn’t bode well for relating with possible buyers. Names aren’t enough anymore; buyers want to know your motives.
The $20/month price tag is Tidal’s real killing joke. Everyone who has talked about it has talked about spending $240 a year for exclusives that we can actually find elsewhere for less. Hopefully, the next announcement from President (and presiding illuminati parliamentarian) Jay will be a reimagined Tidal that is not for “all” in its original conception but for y’all so that we can enjoy it together.