The god MC sees that this business move can be the clear solution to the problems facing musicians in the new streaming age. He figured he should get all the big artists of today and band together to form a team that can conquer the obstacles of the complicated tech and digital age the music industry has evolved to. And that’s exactly what he did.
On Monday, Jay Z, the rap star and mogul, announced his plans for Tidal streaming service, a subscription streaming service he recently bought for $56 million. The new company will be facing competition from Spotify, Google and other companies that will soon include Apple, but Tidal looks to differentiate them by marketing their product as a home for high-fidelity audio and exclusive content.
The most intriguing part of Jay Z’s strategy is that artists will own a majority of the company. The move may bring financial benefits for those involved, but it is also a powerfully symbolic in a business where musicians have rarely had direct control over how their work is consumed.
“This is a platform that’s owned by artists,” Jay Z said in an interview last week as he prepared for the news conference announcing the service. “We are treating these people that really care about the music with the utmost respect.”
The plan was unveiled on Monday at a brief but highly strategic news conference in Manhattan, where Jay Z stood alongside more than a dozen musicians identified as Tidal’s stakeholders. They included Rihanna, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Jack White, Alicia Keys, the country singer Jason Aldean, the French dance duo Daft Punk, members of Arcade Fire, and Beyoncé, Jay Z’s wife.
The artists stood side-by-side and signed an unspecified “declaration.” Jay Z did not speak, but Ms. Keys read a statement expressing the musicians’ wish “to forever change the course of music history.”
The large-scale plan is the latest entry in an escalating battle over streaming music, which has become the industry’s fastest-growing revenue source but has also drawn criticism for its economic model. Major record execs, as well as artists like Taylor Swift, have also openly challenged the so-called “freemium” model advocated by Spotify, which offers free access to music as a way to lure customers to paying subscriptions.
Tidal, which will make millions of songs and thousands of high-definition videos available in 31 countries, will have no free version. Instead, it will have two subscription tiers defined by audio quality: $10 a month for a compressed format (the standard on most digital outlets) and $20 for CD-quality streams.
“I just want to be an alternative,” Jay Z said. “They don’t have to lose for me to win.”