December 4, 2017

SOUND OFF | The Pros and Cons of Tidal (And Other Pay-to-Stream Services)

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In 2015, Jay-Z purchased Tidal for a cool 56 million dollars, touting it as a streaming platform “controlled by the artists”. Now, his Tidal holdings have boosted his net worth to make him the 2nd richest hip hop artist in the world, right behind Sean Combs and surpassing Dr. Dre. However, users were initially uneasy to use the service, preferring instead to use free subscription services such as Spotify (with ads), scroll through songs on Soundcloud, or illegally download music. Tidal was launched with an ideological purpose: to give artists more power in pricing their music, and with any such move it has drawn both praise and criticism. Given that the majority of music listeners are college students/millennials with little cash to spare, the validity of Tidal as a major music streaming service is dubious. Here are the definitive pros and cons of Tidal compared with other streaming services.


The major difference between Tidal and other streaming services is that it doesn’t offer a free ride. Spotify allows a free subscription with ads, for example, but Tidal is only available to those who pay. With this price comes higher quality music (CD-quality, according to Jay-Z, rather than lower quality) and extra features such as earlier release dates, and Tidal-exclusive singles. There are also exclusive music videos, interviews, and other media made especially for paying subscribers.

Another factor to consider is Tidal’s artist-centric business model. Jay-Z has offered stakeholder equity to artists entering the deal, which means artists are in direct ownership of the company and have direct naming rights to prices. There are listeners out there who believe that the best way to support their favorite artists is to buy their music, and this is the ultimate way to do so.


Perhaps the only significant con of Tidal is the high price of streaming, which is a major concern for college students tight on money. There’s the basic, $9.99 a month option that only gives you audio at low quality, and another $19.99 service that delivers the high-quality, CD-level music that Jay-Z aforementioned. People who have already subscribed to Spotify (many of us for free or with the $4.99 student deal bundled with Hulu) would rather just stick with what we have. College students and young adults, the major demographic that consumes large amounts of music and media, are less likely to spend large amounts of money because we just don’t have that much.

The Final Verdict:

At first sight, Tidal seems to be the better streaming service, offering better quality music and giving more money and autonomy to artists. Many have argued that artists don’t need to be making more money, saying that they’re already wealthy enough. Here’s Jay-Z’s response to that argument:

“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 being said, many don’t want to or can’t afford Tidal, and would rather opt for free or cheaper Spotify. Additionally, college students don’t care too much about the “behind-the-scenes” videos, interviews, music videos, etc., if we can access similar videos on Youtube for free. After all, the majority of media we consume is background noise: we put it on while studying, working out, driving or hanging out with friends. Why would I, or any other college student, pay so much money for that? Sure, in an ideal world it would be great to give Beyonce a few more million dollars, but I don’t have that kind of money. In the end, the high costs of Tidal outweigh my moral compass. The cons outweigh the pros, and Tidal isn’t worth it.