Credit: Adam Glazman

Jay Z's Spotify-killer has missed a beat

The megastar rapper may be swimming against the current of history.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 02 Mar 2016

From the taxi drivers blocking London’s streets to protest against Uber, to the estate agents launching their own portal to compete with Zoopla and Rightmove, the world isn’t short of people refusing to lie down and accept the march of the digital giants.

It seems musicians also feel like they are getting a raw deal. Tired of the apparently insufficient royalties they are getting from the likes of Spotify, a group of artists led by Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter, the world’s most successful hip hop performer, have flocked to Tidal, which Carter bought earlier this year.

‘We didn’t like the direction music was going and thought maybe we could get in and strike an honest blow and if, you know, the very least we did was make people wake up and try to improve the free vs. paid system, and promote fair trade, then it would be a win for us anyway,’ Carter told Billboard when the service was re-launched in March. More expensive than Spotify, the new service offers better quality ‘lossless music’ and high definition videos, and says it pays the artists featured on it a royalty rate of around 75%.

The service’s ownership has been split between its founder members, which include Carter’s wife Beyonce, Rihanna, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk and Coldplay’s Chris Martin. Some will sneer at the elite of popular music banding together to demand more royalties. But don’t forget, from France to Russia, it’s often been the bourgeoisie that have fomented revolutionary change – because it’s they who have the means to make a difference. Carter et al. will be hoping their star power will lure enough fans to Tidal that the likes of Spotify will be forced to sit up and listen.

It’s been a shaky start though. After a surge of interest when the service was relaunched on 30 March, the app peaked at number 83 in the list of Apple’s most popular apps, but has since dropped out of the top 750. But Carter took exception to Tidal's detractors yesterday in a series of defensive tweets that lacked the usual bombast you might expect from a rapper.

‘Tidal is doing just fine,’ he said. ‘We have over 770,000 subs. We have been in business less than one month. The iTunes store wasn’t built in a day. It took Spotify nine years to be successful. We are here for the long haul. Please give us a chance to grow and get better.’

Tidal faces tough competition from not just Spotify but also Google’s Youtube and Apple’s Beats Music, which will be re-launched in June. Fair play to music’s A-list for standing up for their profession, but MT wonders if Tidal is swimming against the stream of history.

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