On Monday, Jay Z held a bonkers, star-studded press conference for his new streaming service Tidal where he explained...well, nothing in particular. BUT a declaration was signed. And Alicia Keys referenced Nietzsche. When it was all said and done, we Replied All: “What?"
What is Tidal? It's a music streaming service whose slogans include “TIDAL for All” and the very dadly “The Tides They Are A-Changing." As Jay Z puts it, Tidal is for all, but not everybody. It’s very much in its infancy and critics are still figuring out if it’s worthwhile. But just like with Spotify and Beats Music, we won’t know until real people start testing it out.
On Wednesday, Jay Z attempted to break down some of Tidal's specifics during a Q&A session at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, along with Tidal executive Vania Schlogel. Fader has the full transcript of the NYU talk. Here's some footage of Jay Z speaking. And some Jay Z excerpts below.
Is Tidal competing with Spotify?
“I know everyone thinks "new company, main business competitor is Spotify" but we’re really not here to compete with anyone. We’re actually here to improve the landscape. If just the presence of TIDAL causes other companies to have better pay structure, or to pay more attention to it moving forward, then we’ve been successful in one way. So we don’t really view them as competitors. As the tide rises, all the boats rise.”
Boats? Will Tidal offer exclusive artist content?
“I don’t know. It’s available for streaming immediately. I don’t know where streaming will go in the future. The analytics that we’re seeing tell us that streaming is the next thing, and downloads are going down. I feel like with the history of this platform, from vinyl to where we are now, it just seems like the next logical step."
What was that cool DECLARATION you guys signed?
“Just a declaration that we’re going to work really hard to improve what’s going on in the pay system as we know it. You guys may have seen some of the stats like, Aloe Blacc had a song that was streamed 168 million times and he got paid $4,000. For us, it’s not us standing here saying we’re poor musicians. If you provide a service, you should be compensated for it. And not just artists — just think about the writers and the producers.”
True. Will people really pay for this?
“We believe that if you consume music for free, and that’s what you want to do, that’s your choice. There are good and bad parts of a democratic society — do what you like to do. I’m just talking to people who care about musicians and the music they consume... It’s not for everybody, and we’re not trying to force it on you but if that’s what you like and that’s what you really care about, then you have the option. And that’s what TIDAL is saying.”
Which is better: McDonald’s or Shake Shack?
“We’re cool with, you know, they [other streaming services] can be McDonald’s, we’ll be Shake Shack. We don’t have to be number one, we just want to be very specific and very great at what we do. We want to do a very specific thing, we want people to come to TIDAL for a specific sound, a specific experience, and to know that there are going to be the greatest new artists in the world, the biggest artists, introducing the newest artists, collaborations and things you’ve never seen before. That’s what we’re going to do. After that, the world decides. The universe decides.”
“The universe needs balance. There’s light and dark, there’s day and night. There’s young and old. There’s always an alternative in life. So I don’t believe there will be one service.”
Give me an example of something unrelated to this.
"This is a really bad example but: if Michael Jordan said to me, “Hey man! I got some new, great sneakers that nobody’s ever seen. You wanna buy ‘em from me? Foot Locker’s out of business.” I’m gonna go straight to Michael Jordan’s house and buy the sneakers from him. It’s not a problem — that’s what I want to do. Buy your music from artists and have a better relationship. We’re going to offer more, we’re going to talk to you, we’re going to find out what you like and introduce you to new music.”
Isn't this just the rich can get richer?
“You never hear Tim Cook’s net worth whenever he tries to sell you something. Steve Jobs, God bless, he had to have been pretty rich — nobody’s ever said, “Oh, the rich getting richer! I won’t buy an iPhone!” Yeah, right. It’s not about being pretentious; again, this is a thing for all artists. You pay $9.99 for Spotify, so why not $9.99 for TIDAL. We’re not asking for anything else, we’re just saying that we’ll spread that money to artists more fairly.”
That's a valid point. But I'm not sold...
“If a person can pay $6 for a bottle of water, something that used to be free, if someone can do that? I can definitely show you why you should pay for Lauryn Hill’s album. There are 14 reasons, it’s incredible. Someone’s changed our mindset to believe that that bottle of water is worth $6.”
Ah, that makes sense. What else?
“Our whole thing is transparency — I think there does need to be transparency. If you went to Bordeaux or something, to look at wine, you’d probably think, “Oh, this is some bougie shit.” But if you went and you saw the craftsmanship, the work that went behind it, and someone’s gotta be picking the grapes, and the whole thing — if you saw the process of what it takes to make an album, maybe you’d have a great appreciation for it as well.”
True, that probably would happen if I went to Bordeaux.
Anyway, this sounds like a great way to give artists their deserved stake in the streaming business. On the other hand, it's hard to get average music users to adapt to a new service that doesn’t offer super unique options at a decent price, i.e. Beats Music’s artist- and critic-curated playlists (full disclosure, I create some of them).
Doesn't hurt to try. Music heads really just want good free shit. And it looks like Jay Z wants Tidal to bag those consumers willing to pay for...artists to get paid more, among other things soon to come maybe.
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