With the #TIDAL4ALL hashtag trending all over Twitter, the lossless streaming music service has officially re-launched with the help of Hip Hop icon Jay Z and friends. Here’s why a wave of artists from Madonna to Usher are showing their support for Tidal.
You may have noticed that a new music subscription service named Tidal has been in the news recently. Securing the high-profile backing of a hip-hop megastar will have that effect. Jay Z recently purchased the Scandinavian company behind Tidal, Aspiro, for a cool $56 million.
The service ihas now been relaunched heralding a serious assault on Spotify’s imperious position at the head of this young industry.
So what exactly is Tidal? Why did Jay Z spend so munch money on it? And most importantly of all, what does it have that Spotify (and its other music subscription services) doesn’t?
Tidal is already available
The first think to note here is that, despite the re-launch event, Tidal is already in operation as a music subscription service for iOS, Android, and PC.
It is quite new though, having initially launched in the US and the UK back in October. Tidal has since expanded to 31 countries around the world, with six more planned.
It was recently estimated that Tidal had around 580,000 paying customers. That’s pretty far off the 15 million paying Spotify customers out there, admittedly, but then Spotify has been around for seven years now.
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It’s for audiophiles
Tidal’s biggest point of differentiation over Spotify, Google Play Music, and the like is its focus on the quality of the music – and we’re not talking about subjective taste.
With a Tidal subscription, you can stream high-quality 16-bit 1411 kbps FLAC audio files – also known as a “lossless” format due to its lack of heavy compression – for “a fully detailed, richer sound.”
It offers much better quality than the MP3 and AAC files (which typically sample at 320 kbps) provided by other streaming and even MP3 services. It is, in fact, comparable with CD quality.
Library and extras
If you’re expecting Tidal’s library to be limited with this focus on high quality, you’d be mistaken. There are 25 million tracks available on the service, which is only 5 million or so short of Spotify and Google Play Music.
In addition to having plenty of lossless tracks, Tidal offers 75,000 High Definition music videos.
It also has a high amount of curated content, which goes beyond simple playlists to include artist interviews and features from trusted music journalists.
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In recent weeks it’s been reported that famous Spotify-hater Taylor Swift has agreed to put her music on Tidal. Do we detect double standards here, or perhaps a little wheeling and dealing from showbiz pal Jay Z?
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Neither, actually. Tidal takes a very different approach to funding to Spotify. There’s no free tier – you either sign up and pay $9.99/£9.99 for a standard quality subscription service (much like Spotify) or you pay $19.99/£19.99 per month for the lossless service.
There is no ad-funded alternative. The result is that artists like Swift don’t have to give their music away for free.
What’s next for Tidal?
Well, there wasn’t much to get excited about at the Tidal live stream event where the many high profile artists backing the service lined up to announce a “commitment to a new direction for the music industry from both a creative and business perspective.”
It seems as if the emphasis for the Tidal relaunch was on what it can do for artists rather than what it can do for subscribers. Jay Z has been drumming up support for the service among his pals, with unified tweets from the likes of Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Madonna, and (of course) Beyonce all signalling a new, artist-led method of offering streaming music.
Rumour has it that Jay Z intends to give more favourable rates to artists on Tidal than they get with other subscription services, which could prove trouble for Spotify – particularly if it leads to more high profile Swift-like defections.
Sonos has also become the latest company to announce that Tidal is now available through its service worldwide after the beta trial ended in December last year. Expect the places to get a lossless audio fix to grow over the coming months.