Jay Z’s Tidal relaunch event answered a few questions, but raised many more.
Tidal is a lesser-known competitor to music-streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. But it is suddenly getting a nudge in notoriety.
That’s because the hip-hop mogul recently acquired controlling interest in the Scandinavian-based service. He held an event in New York on Monday introducing the “owners” of Tidal.
Joining him on stage at Skylight at Moynihan Station were Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Usher, deadmau5, Madonna, Rihanna, Jason Aldean, Nicki Minaj, Win Butler and Régine Chassagn of Arcade Fire, Chris Martin (Coldplay), J. Cole, Jack White, and Calvin Harris.
From left, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Deadmau5, Kanye West, Jay Z and J. Cole take the stage at the Tidal launch event #TIDALforALL at Skylight at Moynihan Station on March 30, 2015, in New York City. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images, for Roc Nation)
From left, Usher, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Madonna appear at the Tidal launch event #TIDALforALL at Skylight at Moynihan Station on March 30, 2015, in New York City. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images, for Roc Nation)
Madonna onstage at the Tidal launch event #TIDALforALL at Skylight at Moynihan Station on March 30, 2015, in New York City. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images, for Roc Nation)
Those artists who appeared Monday supposedly have been given 3% equity in the company, with Jay Z holding the remaining stakes, according to Billboard, which cited executives familiar with Tidal’s financials.
The group’s mission, she said, is “beyond commerce and technology … to preserve music’s importance in our lives.”Tidal is “the first-ever artist-owned global music and entertainment platform,” said Keys, the lone musician to take the podium. “We want to create a better service and better experience for fans and for artists.”
To further that mission, Tidal has added a new $ 9.99 monthly subscription for standard-definition or normal sound quality.
Since it launched in the U.S. in October, Tidal offered only a $ 19.99 monthly subscription for unlimited listening of high-definition sound — with no free-listening tier. You do get a seven-day free trial (available on Android and iOS devices, computers and some home audio products, including Sonos speakers).
The additional pay tier is vital to make Tidal competitive with industry leader Spotify and an expected new music-streaming service from Apple, which acquired Beats Music last year for $ 3.2 billion.
Although Tidal has a relatively small paying customer base — 540,000 according to Billboard — it could grow as music lovers take a liking to higher-resolution music.
Those listening to streaming music via earbuds or portable Bluetooth speakers won’t hear a difference with high-res, but if you are at home listening on something like Sonos or a competitor that does Wi-Fi-based streaming, you will (hear a difference),” said Sonos CEO John McFarlane.
“Tidal will come from an artist’s perspective, Spotify from the tech perspective and Apple from their perspective,” he said. In the coming months, “you are going to see a lot of interesting stuff.”
Tidal plans to offer exclusive content, Keys said. That is expected to include videos, studio sessions, rough tracks and interactions with fans.
“As part of our vision to introduce change to the current system, we will continue expanding this platform into an all-encompassing destination in the coming months,” said a statement issued by Tidal after the event. “We are working diligently every day to enhance the overall service.”
After the event, visitors to the Tidal service would find Daft Punk’s feature-length film, Electroma; unreleased footage from Keys’ 2012 Madison Square Garden performance; the White Stripes’ first TV performance; and Rihanna’s new single B— Better Have My Money.
Also there: exclusive playlists from Jason Aldean, deadmau5, Jack White, Jay Z, Beyonce, Coldplay and Usher.
Tidal will have to rely on exclusivity and higher quality because it’s unfathomable that the artists can make their music exclusive to the service, said Nina Ulloa, news and tech writer for Digital Music News.
“I think we’ll definitely see windowing, they’ll offer exclusive streaming on Tidal instead of other streaming services for a period of time,” she said. “I don’t foresee them holding it back from iTunes, physical retail and other stores. That would be like suicide.”
Those involved have a passion for music, said Jay Z in a video released after the event. “I think it’s one of the things that sets us aside from someone that’s a tech company that is selling advertisement or selling hardware. Right now, they are writing a story for us. We need to write the story for ourselves,” he says in the video.
He continues that when he talked to people outside the industry about his plans for Tidal, “everyone was like, ‘What took so long? … This thing was the thing that everyone wanted and everyone feared. If these artists can sit in the room together … the game changed forever, and it happened today.”
Before the event, Tidal posted a video on Facebook hinting at the artists involved. And many of those artists took to Twitter drawing attention to the event, which was livestreamed. That drove #Tidal4All and other related hastags to trending status.
It also attracted some criticism and a countering hashtag #TIDALFORNOONE.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider