Greetings from dreary Carnegie, Pennsylvania! I’m all sorts of excited for a chance to visit home, harass former coworkers, and get some down-time to relax with family and friends. It also gives me time to actually sit down, slow down, and catch up on things I’ve wanted to post about, like this newfangled thing called Tidal. I am admittedly not impressed with this business of “Tidal for All”, as it’s based in the mentality that people who enjoy high quality music also have the funds necessary to shell out $20 a month to enjoy said music. I’ll get back to that point.
I am by no means a subject matter expert on the topic of music sales and the best ways to enjoy your favorite tunes (although, to be fair, I have to suggest there is no proper or best way to enjoy music so long as there is enjoyment involved). My primary means of enjoying music are my 160GB iPod, my laptop (which features Beats by Dre speakers, a feature I wouldn’t have deliberately gotten as I think Beats are yet another overpriced novelty), and CDs played within the confines of my 2011 Toyota Corolla. None of these things are particularly complex sound systems, yet I find my music to be as enjoyable as ever. I would dare say that most human ears wouldn’t detect the differences in music quality unless there are serious issues, such as an artist constantly popping their p’s or something. Unlikely.
More to the point: most people don’t have dedicated time to sit down and listen to the finest quality of music. Music is, instead, the background anthem of long drives, housecleaning, winding down after a long day, and so on. It isn’t a matter of Joe Everyman and Jane Everywoman (I’m so sorry, that reads like such shlocky writing) and the set time they have every day to direct this premium ear-cocaine into their brains for the latest fix. The iTunes gift card my mother has sitting on the computer desk next to me only enforces my points. People buy music to enjoy it while doing other things, not to fixate and pick apart its every little detail. That’s not to say there aren’t audiophiles who won’t obsess over every tiny detail. They are, comparatively speaking, few and far between compared to the largely Tidal-alienated consumer.
The biggest issue people seem to be taking with this whole Tidal thing revolves around the price tag, which leads back to the musicians who are involved with Tidal. Jay Z (Or Jay-Z? I don’t actually care, to be honest, so it’s going to be one or the other), Beyonce, and a veritable Secret Society of big-name artists. Jay Z got bored one day, I assume, and thought about some important things like how he could become more obscenely wealthy while having more control over his music. Then he made a $54 million whim purchase.
If all of this is in the name of giving artists greater control over their art, then hooray. That said: I have to call bullshit on this being all about artistic control and improved quality, as the list of artists involved looks more like a Who’s Who of the fabulous and obscenely wealthy of today’s music scene. During an economy where the regular, everyday music listener has to justify spending that precious $7.99 a month for Netflix streaming. I speak from experience here. I don’t claim to know how each penny spent on iTunes is distributed, but I do know that when I purchase an album it’s because I’m willing to throw money at an artist. While I, as a writer who would happily take more money for my writing, understand this desire to make more off of one’s creations, I also have to look at the minds behind Tidal and roll my eyes so hard it feels like my neck might break. If you have enough money to buy a streaming service for shits and giggles, you need to stop worrying about making more money and maybe consider retiring. Or making music that’s more coherent than your more recent contributions (I’m looking at you, Jay Z).
Remarks I’ve seen regarding these celebrity behaviors, which I don’t think justify it so much as explain the comedic impending train wreck that I envision Tidal becoming, are all about how these super-rich artists are so out-of-touch with reality they don’t seem to know how goddamn absurd they sound. I mean, Alicia Keys referenced Nietzsche (who, surprisingly, wasn’t exactly known for his connections to the world of music or helping musicians become even more rich). The concept of Tidal, and the music streaming it offers, for All is bananas when most people can’t afford the idealized version of said service. It’s more like Tidal for Some, But In that Gated Community Sort of Way. In order for a service like this to survive, it’ll need to be accessible enough that people will be willing to give it a try beyond the 30-day Free Trial. Instead, Tidal feels more like some unneeded piece of excess. It’s there, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy music.
Ultimately, time will tell what kind of service Tidal will evolve into, but right now it just looks like a sad money-grab by some musicians who are scrambling to stay relevant through making bonkers-crazy public acts of greed. I’m aware this sounds harsh, but after sitting through the video footage of the Tidal press conference–an act that can only be described as self-inflicted torture–I feel like it’s justifiable cynicism. I feel, at the very least, I earned bonus points for not using the term “circle-jerk” in reference to anything in this actual post (beyond pointing out I didn’t use that phrase).