Chalk up another win for Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service, the often-criticized but surprisingly persistent platform begun by Mr. Carter back in October 2014. Tidal has scored yet another huge exclusive from a hip-hop artist, as Kanye West has granted Jay-Z’s tidal streaming service the rights to stream West’s new album, The Life of Pablo. The exclusive signals a huge win for Tidal in the “audio streaming wars,” and the rest of 2016 will most likely bring more of the same, thanks to Beyonce and other much-hyped musical artists.
Not gonna lie The Life of Pablo is flames so far from what I'm hearing on Tidal
— ✨ (@yasslex) February 11, 2016
At this point in time, at least, Tidal is not the music streaming king. Spotify, which has been around for much longer, still holds that title. Spotify has over 20 million paying users worldwide, and Tidal just hit 1 million this past October. Tidal is much newer and has been growing at a much faster rate, though, and part of the reason may be the huge-name artists that it gets to release their music exclusively on Tidal.
Just this past weekend, for example, Jay-Z’s wife, Beyonce, surprised the world by dropping her new single “Formation.” And guess what streaming platforms it wasn’t available on? That’s right, every one except Tidal.
You may think “so what? I can just listen to the single on Youtube.” That’s a fair enough argument, although the sound quality and overall listening convenience of the song are greater when you can stream it from a premium service like Tidal. But when artists are dropping entire albums rather than singles and making them Tidal exclusives, listening on Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service becomes highly preferable to the free Youtube method.
And Kanye west isn’t the first artist to release an entire album exclusively on Tidal like this. Lil’ Wayne did so with his free 2015 album, and artists such as Jay-Z and Prince have streamed live shows not available anywhere else on Tidal.
Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Big Sean, and dozens of other big names contribute exclusives to Tidal as well, and Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service generally offers users at least one piece of content they can get nowhere else each day.
It is likely that many artists are happy to help out Tidal with an exclusive release because the service is run by musicians and caters to musicians – or, at least, it claims to. Almost 50 percent of Tidal is owned by a coalition of music’s biggest players, including Jack White, Arcade Fire, Drake, Usher, Alicia Keys, Daft Punk, and Jason Aldean, and Tidal claims to pay a higher percentage of its income to its artists while keeping a smaller percentage for itself. That makes sense since, in a lot of cases, the artists are co-owners of Tidal.
And now, some sources are even predicting that Beyonce’s much-anticipated next album, which has not yet been announced, will be a Tidal exclusive as well.
“What better way to jumpstart her husband’s music-streaming service than to exclusively release it via Tidal?” asks Bustle. “My guess would be that — with “Formation” already up on the site — Tidal could easily be the first place that Beyonce’s new album will appear.”
This seems to be the mindset a lot of artists are taking.
Although Tidal was criticized early on by a lot of artists like Lily Allen and Mumford & Sons in the first year or so of its release for being elitist and overly commercial, much of the musical world seems to have warmed to it. Even Taylor Swift, who used to be very outspoken against Tidal, has embraced it and made it the exclusive provider of her entire back-catalogue.
Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service is definitely trending upwards, and if it can continue its stream of exclusives from huge names like Beyonce and Kanye West, 2016 might very well prove to be the year Tidal becomes one of the big players in the music streaming world.
[Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images]