Two month ago, Jay-Z and his merry band of celebrity friends re-launched Tidal, a premium music streaming service for $20 a month. Ever since, basically nothing has gone right for the company and criticism has been steadily flowing in. Tidal hasn't even cracked the top 700 downloads in Apple’s App Store. In fact, things have gone so poorly that Jay-Z has resorted to offering incentives—like the chance to win tickets to two exclusive concerts—to entice people to download Tidal. And even that has failed to get people on board, and for entirely predictable reasons, Tidal is still a flop.
To differentiate itself from the crowd of established music streaming apps, Tidal is based off the premise that people will pay more for higher-quality music files; instead of the standard 320 kbps bitrate that most CDs and Spotify play, Tidal streams songs in lossless format, a format that doesn’t compress the music file, which translates into better-sounding tunes.
Or at least, it’s supposed to translate that way. Most people can’t tell the difference between 320 kbps and lossless music, and the majority of people listen to their music using devices, like standard Apple earbuds, which don’t even have the capability to make the difference noticeable.
And if that wasn't enough, you will also have the privilege of shelling out double the Spotify Premium rate and four times the Spotify's special student rate for the privilege of Tidal's lossless streaming. If you’re a student, that’s an extra $15 per month for a quality difference you most likely will never notice. So it’s not particularly surprising that basically no one is using it.
Tidal’s rationale for its exorbitant prices is that the money finally goes to the artists, in contrast to Spotify, who are known for taking the lions share of revenue. Finally, little-known, struggling artists like Kanye West, Rihanna, Daft Punk and the rest of the artist-owners of Tidal (combined net worth: over $2 billion) will get the money they’ve been lacking. While it is true that Spotify and other streaming services do screw small artists over, Jay Z and co. are not small artists. Paying double the rate of Spotify to help out smaller artists may make a little sense; doing so to help out Jay Z’s friends doesn’t.
Add the fact that Tidal is weirdly unclear about just how exactly small, independent artists—the ones who should benefit from a higher-priced streaming service—would tangibly benefit from Tidal, and the entire premise of putting the music industry back in the hands of the artists is basically shot.
It’s not even a well-functioning service; the app’s aesthetics can be described anywhere from “ugly” to “Jesus Christ how does this even work,” and as documented on Gawker, the search function is essentially broken and the app is quite glitchy. Compared to Spotify or basically any other streaming site, it’s trash.
Sum up all of that and Tidal is clearly, painfully obviously not worth the money. Maybe if the difference in quality was noticeable to most of the population, or if it functioned well, or if the money went to the artists who needed it or if it wasn’t so damn expensive, it would approach the ballpark of being worth subscribing to.
For the extra $15 a month a student would pay for Tidal, do you know how many souvenir pennies you could buy? So many souvenir pennies; Like multiple gallons of beautiful, gleaming, copper souvenir pennies. At this point, that would probably be the better purchase.