I’ve been listening to music since the days of mixtapes and radio stations. Now in the digital age streaming seems to be the way everything is going. There are already big players in the streaming space. Rdio, Spotify, Pandora with Apple trying to break in with their aquisition of Beats Music. A little while ago recording artist Jay-Z debuted his streaming music service Tidal. It was supposed to be owned by artists and touted to be a way to pay artists more for their music. It was also hailed by the musicians who are part owners as a way to stop music piracy and put the art back into music.
Critically acclaimed music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz explained why Tidal will fail. You can read his newsletter to learn his thoughts. It’s a good read and one I would recommend. One thing he said stood out to me
Now let me get this straight…piracy can be eradicated if artists just band together in the name of money? That’s what this is all about, cash. For the misguided artists who believe this is their financial savior but primarily for Jay Z, who’s using OPM (other people’s money) to have a big score.
Death Cab for Cutie frontman Benjamin Gibbard was quoted in a BGR post with some other great words as well in my opinion.
If I had been Jay Z, I would have brought out ten artists that were underground or independent and said, ‘These are the people who are struggling to make a living in today’s music industry. Whereas this competitor streaming site pays this person 15 cents for X amount of streams, that same amount of streams on my site, on Tidal, will pay that artist this much,’” Gibbard says. “I think they totally blew it by bringing out a bunch of millionaires and billionaires and propping them up onstage and then having them all complain about not being paid.”
“There was a wonderful opportunity squandered to highlight what this service would mean for artists who are struggling and to make a plea to people’s hearts and pocketbooks to pay a little more for this service that was going to pay these artists a more reasonable streaming rate,” he continues. “And they didn’t do it. That’s why this thing is going to fail miserably.
Now I’m old school and I prefer to own what I spend money to get. So streaming services are definitely not for me. Tidal in my opinion though went about this totally wrong and in my eyes has very little chance for success.
In the simpler days radios would play music. You could sit around with your cassette tapes and record the song. You didn’t have to buy the album on tape when it came out. People would make their mixtapes with all their favorite songs. Musicians still got paid and people still bought their tapes. Times have changed but to have a bunch of artists on stage who have more money than I would guess 90% of their fans. Complaining about how much money they are losing becasue of pirating is just stupid. It would have been a much better move to have complained about losing money to record labels and positioning this streaming service as a way to get a larger share of that money. At the end of the day it is still a hard sell because you have multi-millionaires and almost billionaires complaining about how much they are getting paid.
What it looked like to me was just another way to try and get more money from fans. The same fans who are the reason all those musicians are even on stage. Why not sit down and look at the problems facing your industry. Then try to figure out a way that fans can get something for their money while artists can get more of that money for their craft/art. How about a hybrid streaming service where users can mark $20 worth of songs for download to their account each month. How about different tiers of service so that people who can’t afford $20 a month can still sign up for the service if they see value in it. Above all the piracy issue shouldn’t have even been brought up. There is no one on this earth that will tell me that not one single artist on that stage hasn’t copied, recorded or downloaded a bootleg song. Whether it was before they became famous or not is irrelevant. Know that the system will always find a way to correct. So if there is piracy that may be because the cost of music has gotten too high for some listeners.
So far it doesn’t seem like Tidal is off to a good start. Another BGR post has the details of just how far Tidal has fallen while rivals Spotify and Pandora have surged. I guess it remains to be seen if they can really turn this around or whether they are just swimming against the Tide.