• The Press Loves To Hate TIDAL

    March 30, 2015 was a big day for TIDAL. The streaming service re-launched with an additional tier of service, exclusive content, and new ownership. Nothing promotes products like celebrity, and TIDAL laid the celebrity on pretty thick during its press event at Skylight at Moynihan Station in Manhattan. The event was somewhat uneventful for those seeking details over enthusiasm, and featured the biggest names in music looking as awkward as toddlers waiting for instructions during a kindergarten graduation ceremony. Overall, we didn't learn much new about TIDAL. The existing TIDAL HiFI lossless service that people have been using since its original launch in late 2014 remains the same. However, the press sure loves to hate and chum the waters with enough link bait to hook every naive reader the world over. Some of the headlines and prose written about TIDAL this week would make the unlearned reader think the service will fail within the month but still fill up the bank accounts of undeserved rich artists. Based on Press reaction, TIDAL would have been better off to Rick-roll everyone at the event. At least the hipster press would have eaten that up and waxed poetically about how great it was. While I won't be watching reruns of the press event, I will keep using TIDAL HIFI like I have since the days of WiMP it's predecessor. Let's take a look at what some of the press had to say about TIDAL.


    Josh Constine at Tech Crunch lead with his headline, "Why Jay-Z’s Music App Tidal Sounds Doomed." At least Josh explained the two reasons for his prediction. He said people don't care about higher quality music and most people can't tell the difference between the two quality tiers. Josh also said TIDAL's lack of a free tier, like Spotify, will mean it can't convert users from the trial subscription to a paid subscription. Both of those are good points, but to call TIDAL doomed is a bit over the top. Beats never had a free tier. Sure it didn't challenge Spotify, but it sold for billions of dollars (including the headphone business that Apple could have simply created on it own). Toward the end of Josh's rant he says TIDAL was built for artists, not for the consumer or average listener. Well, I know the people who built TIDAL and I disagree. TIDAL it the new name for WiMP Music. It has been around for several years, and wasn't created by Jay Z and his artist-centric friends looking to satisfy each other. Let's move on.

    Perhaps the biggest clap trap of the week, seized upon by several writers, is the fact that Jay Z and the artists that joined him on stage for the press event are rich and don't need or deserve any more money. This really gets the liberal base charged up (no crying foul, I'm as liberal as they come). Who cares if they are rich and have been successful. Many of them come from absolutely nothing. Getting rich is not a bad thing, but it sure gets jealous people's goats. Who do people think can afford to purchase a multimillion dollar business? Starving artists? No, rich people and those with connections to rich people. Here are a couple link bait headlines fishing for the fired up reader. "Jay Z, Beyoncé, Madonna and rich friends offer pricey Spotify alternative called ‘Tidal’" - Justin Wm. Moyer of The Washington Post. "Jay Z enlists millionaire musicians to promote relaunch of Tidal music service" - James Vincent of The Verge. Other writers tried to explain themselves a bit more. Tech Hive's Michael Brown said, "Watching yesterday’s glitz and glamour, it’s easy to be cynical and ask “why do these megastars need more money?” The fact is, the recording industry was built on the backs of artists who never achieved the fame and fortune that was on display at yesterday’s press conference." I'm sure there have been many artist over the years that made great music and never made a penny, but I'd say the music business was built on the backs of the cash cows like Nat King Cole. In fact the Capitol Records building is known as the house that Nat built. Should Jay Z have invited a bevy of D-Listers up on stage to re-launch the service? Using the power of celebrity to sell a product has been done forever and it works.

    According to Sam Biddle of Gawker, "Only a few minutes ago, the entire music industry stood on a stage in a collective display of how rich and out of touch they are." And, the anonymous Bossip staff wrote, "Yesterday Jay Z got his rich music friends together to sign on to launch a new streaming service to compete with the likes of Spotify. … Essentially, Jay and company are asking us to help line their pockets out of the kindness of our hearts and desire to see them get richer. The entire fiasco was a money grab and it reeked of desperation and pretentiousness." Maybe I'm out of touch (certainly not rich), but I don't get why a bunch of musicians promoting a service is a collective display of wealth and seen as out of touch. This was a commercial for TIDAL called a press event. I'm under no illusions that TIDAL isn't a business to make money for the owners of the business. That's what businesses do, make money. TIDAL isn't a non-profit or a Co-op. Sure TIDAL will likely be owned by a small number of the most successful artists. The artists who can actually bring in hundreds of millions of dollars! Again, writers looking for attention jumped on the rich-get-richer TIDAL-bashing bandwagon.

    Duncan Geere of Tech Radar not only played the rich card, he also pulled out the bottle of snake oil. "In short, the way it looks today, Tidal is a terrible proposition. It's selling snake oil, sharing the profits with the richest artists alone, and the only way it's going to be able to get market share is by screwing over consumers by withholding catalogues from other services." Said Geere. In reality TIDAL isn't that much different than the other streaming services and it offers a lossless option that will help compensate artists more than those other service. Yet, according to Duncan Geere it's a terrible proposition. In addition, what a terrible thing to share the profits with the richest artists alone (not). When those artists are the ones taking a risk or using their celebrity to bring in the profits, that's how capitalism works. Redistributing the profits to everyone or artists bringing in next to nothing makes no sense. Altruistic but nonsensical from a business perspective. Nothing riles up the anti-HiFi crowd like the mention of snake oil. Just seeing those two words has been known to cause objectivist collective blood to boil. But wait, the lossless audio offered by TIDAL is based 100% on objective, scientific, reproducible data. The opinion that TIDAL is terrible is fine, but the misrepresentation that the company is selling snake oil is disingenuous. Link bait anyone?

    Meanwhile, while the press darlings Spotify and Pandora continue to garner favorable comparisons to TIDAL, the company's CEOs continue to swim in cash like Scrooge McDuck. Has there been any mention this week of Spotify customers lining the pockets of CEO Daniel Ek whose net work is $400 million? What about Pandora CEO Brian P. McAndrews whose total calculated compensation, as of fiscal year 2013, was $29,167,388? Does anyone care to see what the money losing company Pandora is paying its other executives? Here's a hint, between $3.5 and $11.6 million (2013 data). I'm not a fan of playing the rich card. I don't care how much money these people make. I just find it convenient and uncreative for the Press to raise the issue while preaching to their choirs.

    It's simple to sit here reading what others have to say about TIDAL and make snide comments about what was said. I live in an online glass house, I shouldn't throw stones. At least not without offering my own opinions about TIDAL. I should say that TIDAL has also been an advertiser here at Computer Audiophile and may be at some point in the future. I also have friends at the company in both Oslo, Norway and here in the US. I want to see the company succeed, but I also want all the streaming companies to succeed. If all of them succeed, consumers should win with greater competition. For the most part I really like TIDAL. The ability to stream tens of millions of tracks in lossless quality is what the service is all about to me. The fact that the other streaming services don't offer this lossless tier of service in the US, without ties to hardware vendors, is what makes TIDAL better for me. TIDAL has its share of challenges ahead and isn't a perfect service. If Spotify has 15 million paying customers (60 million total) and still loses money, TIDAL better run its business pretty lean with only 17,000 current customers. Comparing TIDAL's user interfaces with the competition doesn't really matter. All the interfaces on all the services change frequently. It all comes down to personal taste, and you know what they say about taste, there's no accounting for it. Currently TIDAL doesn't have the social media integration or integrated apps that Spotify offers. Including such features isn't rocket science and it will likely be done in due time on TIDAL. The fact that TIDAL announced exclusive content is a bit troubling for users of other services that want this content and don't want to switch or purchase more than one service. Exclusives didn't start with TIDAL and will not end with TIDAL. As I alluded to earlier, the streaming services are much more alike than they are different. People are going to use which ever one they like best. No service is a killer of the others. There is room for more than one service, although Bob Lefsetz would beg to differ with me. It's also being thrown around in the Press that TIDAL is going to usher in a new era of piracy because of exclusives and high prices. I don't buy it. Piracy is dead for all but the dedicated thieves. People like convenience and the streaming services make it way too easy to listen to the music that's available rather than find a pirated copy and sync it to one's phone. Streaming services keep honest people honest regardless of exclusives and prices. If people can't get the music they want they'll move on. My three year old daughter's generation won't be pirating The Beatles if they can't get the music via a streaming service. They'll move on and the Beatles will disappear. Exclusives mean people won't have certain content, they don't bring on piracy. Down the road I see one potential issue for Jay Z and his fellow owners of TIDAL. They've been pushing the whole artist owned mantra heavily this week and will likely keep pushing it to death. It's not a bad thing. However, in a few years things will get awkward when the artists sell TIDAL to Samsung for several billion dollars. I guess it will become the service formerly owned by artists.
    Comments 65 Comments
    1. bobflood's Avatar
      bobflood -
      Chris,

      You are absolutely right in saying that competition is the key. I hope that the other services will now be forced to offer a lossless tier. It cannot be lost on them that there is a market for it. The only reason Tidal has any customers in the USA at all is that it is lossless. It did not offer anything free. If those who want free or cheap don't think Tidal has any value for them then they should stay with the other services whose business model accommodates them. I do wonder just how long the other services will be able to lose money in order to get high subscriber counts. They all seem to think that there is some mythical pot of gold at the end rainbow but I personally think that the conversion rate will never reach the level where they will actually be able to make a financial profit. At some point free for too long becomes free forever in the minds of consumers.

      We shall see.
    1. Jimmypowder's Avatar
      Jimmypowder -
      I love to hate Tidal . Why? Because their streaming is unreliable .

      And you get to pay 20/month for that privilege .
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Chris-

      I'm a little cynical about it too. All those rich artists up there make me think the rich artists will tilt the economics toward the rich and famous and not help the lesser known, smaller artists.
      I'll feel a lot better about the whole thing when I see that the artists supporting it are making decisions that help the little guy even a little more than they help the already rich.
    1. stevebythebay's Avatar
      stevebythebay -
      Unfortunately for the less well known artists, Tidal is much like the Blockbuster video of old. They offer up the popular at the expense of the hidden gems. Until recordings by Alan Lomax, of Delta blues players, or Balinese Gamelan music, and much "World Music" appear, I don't think we'll feel they're willing to make investments for all artistic sensibilities.
    1. tronds's Avatar
      tronds -
      Worth mentioning that WiMP had it's own programme named "WiMP DIY" making it dead simple for unsigned artists to publish their work on WiMP (and other streaming services). I don't know if WiMP DIY will "come over" to TIDAL, but would be really nice if it did.
    1. new_media's Avatar
      new_media -
      I have to say the "for the artists by the artists" stuff rang pretty hollow for me as well. Unless TIDAL is somehow going to help artists renegotiate their label contracts, the only artists that stand to make any real money off of it are the ones with a stake in the company.

      I'm happy with streaming Beats and buying lossless for now; waiting to see what shakes out of the streaming business once Apple and Google enter the marketplace.
    1. woodford's Avatar
      woodford -
      Spotify (and one assumes Apple/Beats as well), actually has all the music it receives as lossless files. there's a cost to deliver it however, and it likely could only be offered as a premium tier. they're watching the market, so we should all be rooting for Tidal to succeed, which could force Spotify and others to offer the same level of sound quality.
    1. james45974's Avatar
      james45974 -
      There is quite a bit of gnashing of teeth going on here! Music listening is a subset of the entertainment industry, audiophiles are a subset of that, audiophiles who use streaming is a subset of that, and audiophiles who use Tidal are a subset of that. I get the idea that the audiophile population who listens to high quality streaming feels that they are somehow a market driver, but that lays bare a conceit of audiophiles. They are not now nor, arguably, will they ever be a market driver, they are forever going to be a niche. Just look at who was on stage at the presser and you can see what direction Tidal will be going. I wonder how long the high quality streaming will last if it doesn't show income and growth, and either be jettisoned or the price raised. For streaming I listen to Tune-in and Pandora when I am not listening to my ripped music, both provide me with entertainment, I don't have any need for Tidal personally, but I wish them no ill will. But I guess I like to think that I have more of a pragmatic view than one through rose colored glasses.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      This is just a difficult thing. On the one hand, the press is being vicious. On the other hand, this seems more and more like a money grab and f&*! the customer paying that $240 a year, as well as the small artists who are making music we want to hear. And understandably I suppose, the Jay-Z version may not spend time and effort courting classical or jazz artists for their music.
    1. ednaz's Avatar
      ednaz -
      As I watched the launch show, I thought about the Millionaire Boyz and Girlz Club members up there on stage, and wondered if that talk about artists taking back control of their music was just for Club members. Or, did they think about how their careers launched and grew, and realized that they may not have been able to make a go of it, much less join the Club, if they'd been starting out in the fractional-cent streaming economic model.

      I'm hoping that they are sincere, and make Tidal a better economic place for everyone making music worth listening to. I don't subscribe to any streaming services now, because I have a lot of musician friends and see how different it is for them today from how it was for the musicians I knew years ago.
    1. james45974's Avatar
      james45974 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ednaz View Post
      As I watched the launch show, I thought about the Millionaire Boyz and Girlz Club members up there on stage, and wondered if that talk about artists taking back control of their music was just for Club members. Or, did they think about how their careers launched and grew, and realized that they may not have been able to make a go of it, much less join the Club, if they'd been starting out in the fractional-cent streaming economic model.

      I'm hoping that they are sincere, and make Tidal a better economic place for everyone making music worth listening to. I don't subscribe to any streaming services now, because I have a lot of musician friends and see how different it is for them today from how it was for the musicians I knew years ago.
      The press conference said to me "popular" and "anglo". How many countries is Tidal available in now? Is there going to be a worldwide press tour to all of those countries with representative artists? Unfortunately, the US is the 800 pound gorilla in the room so far.
    1. ajay556's Avatar
      ajay556 -
      Question...
      Is lossless as good as CD quality? Because I have spotify, TIdal and iTunes (With CD wav files) on my iphone. Using my hugo as a DAC....Tidal is clearly better than Spotify, but its not equal to iTunes playing wav files. It seems like Tidal is considered CD quality, but i feel it falls short of CD qualty...then why make that claim?
    1. palbratelund's Avatar
      palbratelund -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jimmypowder View Post
      I love to hate Tidal . Why? Because their streaming is unreliable .

      And you get to pay 20/month for that privilege .
      Hi, Jimmypowder. Have you tried in the last week or so. We have turned on a huge Akamai CDN rig and a lot of other improvements. From our logs we run 99.x% crash free sessions and dropouts have gone down radically, and is actually declining the more traffic coming in.
    1. palbratelund's Avatar
      palbratelund -
      Quote Originally Posted by james45974 View Post
      The press conference said to me "popular" and "anglo". How many countries is Tidal available in now? Is there going to be a worldwide press tour to all of those countries with representative artists? Unfortunately, the US is the 800 pound gorilla in the room so far.
      Right now, TIDAL is available in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States of America.
    1. realhifi's Avatar
      realhifi -
      I'm still not sure how they plan on getting enough subscribers to sign on when Beats, Spotify, Etc really hasn't been able to. Also, I wonder how they plan on making subscribers of Beats and Spotify switch to their service when they offer the same thing for the same cost (not withstanding the ultra premium service of lossless playback they offer).

      I'm not against the company at all but am simply looking at the landscape both pragmatically and with open eyes.

      PS. Just left Reckless Records in Chicago where I got 6 lps in mint condition for under $20. Talk about high res at bargain prices!
    1. Jimmypowder's Avatar
      Jimmypowder -
      Quote Originally Posted by palbratelund View Post
      Hi, Jimmypowder. Have you tried in the last week or so. We have turned on a huge Akamai CDN rig and a lot of other improvements. From our logs we run 99.x% crash free sessions and dropouts have gone down radically, and is actually declining the more traffic coming in.
      Yep . I use Amarra Sq with Tidal and it stutters ,pops and crackles . Amarra Sq works perfectly with every other music service except Tidal. If I do not use Amarra , there are still problems but not as many .


      Still way too many problems. I have 120/20 Mbps speeds at the house . Pretty fast but not Google Fiber l

      Tidal does sound it's best on the Auralic Aries and playback is flawless on it . It is the only reason I still have a Tidal
      sub .
    1. Jimmypowder's Avatar
      Jimmypowder -
      Quote Originally Posted by ajay556 View Post
      Question...
      Is lossless as good as CD quality? Because I have spotify, TIdal and iTunes (With CD wav files) on my iphone. Using my hugo as a DAC....Tidal is clearly better than Spotify, but its not equal to iTunes playing wav files. It seems like Tidal is considered CD quality, but i feel it falls short of CD qualty...then why make that claim?
      No question Tidal doesn't sound as good as a ripped cd . But I have noticed some improvement in audio quality recently .
      When it doesn't stutter , pop or crackle .
    1. bobbmd's Avatar
      bobbmd -
      I couldn't agree more with the CA editorial. As I stated in a comment on the original TIDAL article ' the tides they are achangin'this venture is akin to what charlie chaplin,mary pickford ,dw griffith and then later burt lancaster and other actors attempted to with UnitedArtists-take back control of their art and product and keep more money for themselves and for the less fortunate but wonderful unknown artists who get next to nothing for their efforts and the famous and unknown artists from our past and before who get fractions of a penny if we the consumer/audiophiles stream their music. But we now have a commitment to lossless SQ as a bonus.
      Those of you using this forum to rant about TIDAL's SQ must have poor equipment/cable companies etc. For the last 2-3 years i have used TIDAL/WiMp/Qobuz(yes you can get it in USA) with Amarra Sq and a Schiit gungnir DAC and have never ever had 'pops' 'crackles' or dropouts EXCEPT when i used PureMusic original or 2 in playthrough mode-the sound reproduction is spectacular and consistent-the SQ definitely depends on the original source that is streaming to us.
      As far as Beats is concerned the only thing worthwhile is i was able to transfer my 400 MOG playlists-their web offering is horrible you can't make playlists there is is no 'sentence' and there is no web player but on apple tv and iphone everything is avaliable and the sound with help of Amarra Sq is not too shabby whereas Spotify's sound is 'ok'.
      Pandora is less than 250 kbps.
      All the services above layouts are different unique and offer access to different types or unique artists(and the ability to make endless playlists) for example Qobuz offers Bea Vander Maat(Won-Ton-Ton) and a lot of european/french artists i never heard of/Tidal offers Pat Guadnago(Tired Horses) a Jersey Shore dylan cover band and Trailer Trash another dylan cover band/ both offer more or less all of RHINO's, Vanguards and Columbia legacys album collections plus albums from clapton and sinatra i never knew existed.
      Let them compete or eventually combine- we and they will all benefit and they will improve and exploit the "SQ" which is all that should be important to us 'audiophiles'.( ps i really miss WG his comments on this would be wonderful)
    1. blueixus's Avatar
      blueixus -
      Chris you obviously feel strongly about TIDAL but the press respond to what they see in front of them at the press conference because that is what it is there for.

      For my money it was a breathtakingly arrogant and out of touch event and I think on that alone the press called it right. Stick some celebrities up there and then rinse the punter.

      Whether TIDAL is a good service and actually works was not really touched on, I worry about this, I also strongly suspect that TIDAL wants to be a celeb based entity as this is how it wants to portray itself.

      Personally I think the economics of TIDAL are a bad proposition. I reckon for the annual cost of TIDAL I could buy about 40CDs (a mix of new and secondhand). After 10 years I would own 400CDs, if had gone the TIDAL route and unsubscribed after 10 years I would own nothing.

      My strategy is to buy for keeps what I really like and use Spotify etc etc to fill in the gaps and try things out.
    1. hdls's Avatar
      hdls -
      Chris,
      What worries me is that oftentimes, when superstars become businessmen, mass consumers tend to purchase average service / devices for much more than the real price should be (see the example of Dr Dre's headphones, clearly overpriced however extremely successful).
      Chris