Arts

Consumers might be more likely to stick to a stream instead of Tidal

The music industry is often a complex and confusing system in which the creators are rarely at the top of the hierarchy. But the Internet has created a new breed of individualists that are more than content with carving their own path to success.

Spearheaded by Jay-Z, the streaming website Tidal is the most recent attempt to flip the structure of the music industry.

Album sales have plummeted in the last 15 years, making the days of paying $22 for a single CD long gone. Despite the falling  numbers, buying albums today is much easier and iTunes sells more music per year than any store in the world.

This is where the question of streaming comes in—in most cases every time a song is played on a streaming site the artist will get paid, but the cut is typically minuscule.

With sites like Spotify exploding as a place where music is available at your fingertips for free, artists find themselves in a predicament. As the Guardian investigated, it would take more than 1 million plays on a song cumulatively for a signed artist to earn a minimum wage from Spotify streams, while an unsigned artist would need 192,308 plays to make the same wage.

Apple iTunes artists receive 23 per cent for their albums. On Tidal, 37 per cent of signed artists and five per cent of unsigned acts are said to earn minimum wage. Thus, a more profitable gain for any musician.

Tidal costs $20 per month for a subscription, by and large the most expensive streaming service on the market. It offers the best audio quality compared to its competition, Spotify, which is free.

The artist-first approach and overall service that Tidal offers is advantageous for established musicians and audiophiles, yet excludes to up-and-comers and everyday listeners.

Sean Callaghan, co-founder of the E.L.E Festival at the University of Ottawa,  says students can afford the price but other free alternatives might be more tempting.

Maybe for a cheaper fee it would make more sense to a student because (of) the convenience of having all the music you could want at your fingertips,” he says.

“Like Netflix is quite valuable, but Netflix is only $8 per month so they made it a no-brainer for students. With that being said I do still feel like $20 is affordable for most people, especially for something as important as music. We’ve just been spoiled with how accessible free music is.”

Jon-Rhys Evenchick, a former student at the U of O, owner and manager of Ottawa’s newest music venue, LIVE on Elgin, says if you’re interested in exclusive content it may be worth the price-tag, but consumers must be aware of how much money is going to the musician.

“Jay-Z has made claims, but has yet to provide solid numbers for what he is offering the artists involved,” he says. “When I work with bands who can barely cover dinner with the rate most bars offer to pay them, the service being offered by Tidal seems completely off-base from what the music industry really needs at this point in its life-cycle.”

The star-studded press conference unveiling of Tidal may have made more waves than the service ever will. Jay-Z will likely have to prove to users and artists alike that his service is mutually beneficial if he wants to ride that wave—and drown the competition.