99 problems and Jay-Z thinks the way to stream music is one

The music streaming industry has become saturated with different companies all trying to be the favorite. In a world of the “customer comes first” and “have it your way,” Jay Z’s streaming company, Tidal, strives to put the artist first in terms of creation, ownership and control. Popular artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna, Madonna, Jack White, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Daft Punk and Coldplay’s Chris Martin have already signed on in an attempt to be paid more for their work. Tidal’s average share of equity for each artist is 3 percent. Could this be advantageous for those artists who could be considered emerging? What would Tidal do for those artists who do not have a  precedent of exposure to bring fans that are willing to pay a lot for their music? Is this a misguided attempt at a trickle-down streaming service where the main goal is not the fan’s enjoyment, but the artist getting more money?

Tidal does not necessarily benefit the kind of artists that might be considered struggling. The main draw is higher audio quality, but this comes at a cost double the amount of the average Spotify premium subscription.

“If the $10 service is identical to others, then there’s no particular advantage to people going to it,” Larry Kenswil, attorney and a former top Universal Music digital executive, said to Rolling Stone. “You’ve got to still favor Spotify, because it has such a huge market share.”

For this to work at all, the artist would need to solely have music available on Tidal. This is virtually impossible since other services, both legal and illegal, would pop up to accommodate those who could not or would not subscribe to Tidal.

Maybe there is irony here, but Taylor Swift has put all of her music on Tidal, except her recent “1989” album. Swift seems to have wanted to be in control of her music distribution, but by becoming a part of Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service, she is gaining more power, but still under another company.

“Music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment,” Swift said. “And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

I wonder how these musicians  are really thinking about the fans.

Similarly, I wonder if Jay Z realizes that the people who are consuming the most music are college students, high school kids, some of privilege and some who are not.

The major problem is that these stars are limiting their exposure to those who want to hear their music. The music industry should be another public service, but that is not reasonable in the market we are currently in. The idea that they should be limiting music in a way that disallows for enjoyment ends up being classist. It pushes people to turn to illegally downloading music.

“We believe fans should be able to listen to music wherever and whenever they want, and that artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy,” Spotify said on their website on Nov. 3, 2014.

There should be choices and agency involved in music enjoyment. Although respecting the artist is important, leaving people with options is equally important.


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