Tidal (stylized as TIDAL) is a subscription-based music streaming service that combines lossless audio and high-definition music videos with exclusive content and special features on music. The service is maintained by the Scandinavian company Aspiro AB.
The service has over 48.5 million tracks and 175,000 music videos. Tidal claims to pay the highest percentage of royalties to music artists and songwriters within the music streaming market, while offering two levels of digital music streaming service: Tidal Premium (lossy quality) and Tidal HiFi (lossless CD quality – FLAC-based 16-Bit/44.1 kHz – and MQA). Tidal was launched in 2014 by Norwegian public company Aspiro. It has distribution agreements with all of the three major labels, in addition to many indies.
Following the acquisition of Aspiro by Jay-Z in March 2015, a mass-marketing campaign was introduced to relaunch Tidal. Multiple music artists changed their social media profile's design blue, and posted the phrase "#TIDALforAll" on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A press conference took place on March 30, 2015, introducing sixteen music artists to the stage, including Jay-Z, who were all co-owners and stakeholders in Tidal. The service was promoted as being the first artist-owned streaming service with the goal of returning the value proposition to music.
While some observers praised the impressive high fidelity, lossless audio quality, and the higher subscription fees which would result in higher royalties to the artists and songwriters, others felt the high subscription fees and exclusive Tidal content from the artists involved could result in an increase of music piracy. Tidal has claimed to have over 3 million subscribers, although the veracity of those claims as well as their reported streaming numbers have been questioned. Tidal currently operates in 52 countries. Sprint purchased 33% of Tidal on January 23, 2017 for a reported $200 million.
Home screen of Tidal for Android app
|Opened||October 28, 2014|
|Format||AAC, FLAC, ALAC, MQA|
|Catalogue||48.5 million songs|
|Alexa rank||10,297 (June 2018)|
Branching off from WiMP, which was launched in Norway in 2010 and later available in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Poland, Aspiro first launched the Tidal brand in the UK, the US, and Canada on October 28, 2014. The launch was supported by Sonos and 15 other home audio manufacturers as integrations partners. In January 2015, Tidal launched in five more European countries: Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. It is currently available in 52 countries worldwide.
Aspiro was purchased by Project Panther Bidco Ltd. (owned by Jay-Z) for SEK 466 million (USD $56.2 million) in January 2015. Before acquiring Aspiro, Jay-Z stated in an interview with Billboard that he was willing to partner with other streaming services to carry out his vision. "We talked to every single service and we explored all the options," stated Jay-Z, "But at the end of the day, we figured if we're going to shape this thing the way we see it, then we need to have independence. And that became a better proposition for us, not an easier one, mind you," he concluded.
On April 16, 2015 it came to public attention that Tidal was closing its original Aspiro offices in Stockholm, terminating the employment for all Swedish employees and the current CEO Andy Chen. The company refused to comment on closing the offices, but confirmed that Andy Chen had been replaced as CEO by Peter Tonstad. In September 2015, Tidal began selling digital downloads and CDs. In December 2015, Tidal appointed Jeff Toig as CEO of the company. Jeff Toig then left the company in March 2017. Richard Sanders was announced as CEO in August 2017.
Tidal is currently owned by Jay-Z and a variety of other successful music artists, making it the first artist-owned streaming service in the world. The idea of an artist-owned streaming platform was stated as to "restore the value to music by launching a service owned by artists." During the previously-mentioned press conference, Jay-Z himself, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Jack White, Madonna, Arcade Fire, Alicia Keys, Usher, Chris Martin, Calvin Harris, deadmau5, Jason Aldean and J. Cole were introduced to the stage as "the owners of TIDAL". Eric Harvey of Pitchfork stated on the artists who co-own the service, "These are the 1 percent of pop music in the world right now, these are artists who do not answer to record labels, do not answer to corporations."
A key selling point for Tidal in relation to competing with other streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora Radio is the exclusive content already available and expected for the future from the current artists who co-own the company, as well as others. Exclusive content available on the relaunch of Tidal included Rihanna's new single "Bitch Better Have My Money", The White Stripes debut television appearance, Daft Punk's Electroma (2006), and playlists personally curated by Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Arcade Fire and Coldplay. Tidal stated on its official Twitter page that "lots of exclusive content [is] on the way". In April 2015, Tidal exclusives included Beyoncé releasing a video of her performing "Die for You", a never-before heard original song, dedicated to her and Jay-Z's wedding anniversary, Madonna releasing a teaser of her upcoming music video at the time for "Ghosttown" and Rihanna debuting her brand new song and music video "American Oxygen".
On March 30, 2015, a press conference was held at Skylight at Moynihan Station in New York City, to officially relaunch Tidal. The conference started with a brief introduction and explanation of Tidal. After introducing the aforementioned sixteen artist co-owners of Tidal onstage, recording artist Alicia Keys spoke on behalf of the artists and for Tidal. She stated, "So we come together before you on this day, March 30th, 2015, with one voice in unity in the hopes that today will be another one of those moments in time, a moment that will forever change the course of music history." Keys also described the event as like a "graduation". At the end of the press conference, all artists onstage signed a declaration, which stated Tidal's mission. Tidal claimed to have gained 100,000 new subscribers following the press conference revealing the artists involved in the service.
On February 23, 2016, T.I. joined the service's roster as the latest co-owner, kicking off the partnership by releasing "Money Talk", a single from his tenth album, exclusively on the service, as well as streaming his concert live from Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta.
On April 23, 2016, Beyoncé released "Lemonade," her second "visual album" available for streaming exclusively on Tidal. On April 25, it was made available for purchase by track or album on Amazon Music and the iTunes store and on May 6, it arrived at physical retailers.
In November 2016, Tidal released, with exclusivity, the single of work of the singer Claudia Leitte, "Taquitá", where it gained worldwide repercussion. The video clip was also released exclusively on the platform for one week.
In January 2017, the company announced a partnership with UK-company Master Quality Authenticated to deliver master-quality recordings—authenticated and unbroken versions (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit) with the highest-possible resolution to its HiFi subscribers. Tidal is the only streaming company to offer this service.
Shortly after Tidal's launch and press conference, the mobile version of the service shot to the top 20 of the U.S. iPhone Apps chart. However, following criticism for its "out-of-touch marketing campaign", two weeks later, the app had already fallen out of the top 700 ranking of the same list, while competing services like Spotify and Pandora were surging.
Glenn Peoples of Billboard wrote that Tidal was a good thing for the music industry. He stated that the U.S. streaming market needed a "kick in the butt" when looking at the growth rate of streaming from 2014 to 2015. Peoples also noted that more competition in the streaming market is a good thing as it could lead to a "greater diffusion of innovation". He concluded that a service like Tidal – which is promoted as paying a fair amount of royalties to both the artists and the songwriters – will lead to the industry as a whole sorting out its issues with streaming royalties.
Writing for USA Today's website, Micah Peters released a list of "3 reasons why Jay-Z's new Tidal streaming service is stupid". The article focused on points that the high fidelity, lossless audio quality model being promoted was "overestimat[ing] the average listener". Peters worried that most listeners do not have the required, advanced headphones to distinguish the difference between ordinary and high fidelity audio. The article also stated that the $20 price was simply not reasonable for the mass market.
Recording artist Lily Allen expressed her opinions on Tidal on her official Twitter account. She feared that the high price of Tidal, as well as the mass popularity of the artist co-owners, could result in crippling the music industry and increasing piracy. She stated "I love Jay-Z so much, but Tidal is (so) expensive compared to other perfectly good streaming services, he's taken the biggest artists... Made them exclusive to Tidal (am I right in thinking this?), people are going to swarm back to pirate sites in droves".]
Kanye West's decision to initially release his album The Life of Pablo as a Tidal streaming exclusive led to criticism from fans, who felt that streaming exclusivity could promote piracy. The album has been pirated over 500,000 times as of February 17, 2016. West later made the album available to stream on competing services. In July 2017, West terminated his contract with Tidal, claiming that the service owed him $3 million.
In the United States, a monthly subscription costs $9.99 for the standard "premium" service, or $19.99 for the lossless quality high fidelity ("HiFi") service, when subscribed through the Tidal website. Subscriptions cost 30% more ($12.99/$25.99) when subscribed directly through the iOS app due to Apple App Store fees. Tidal offers a 50% discount for students of accredited institutions, as well as a 40% discount for users in military service. Tidal claims to pay the highest royalty percentage of any current music streaming company, with approximately 75% of members subscription fees being given to record labels for individual artist and songwriter distribution.
One artist has stated that artist royalties per track from Aspiro/Tidal are currently over three times than those paid by Spotify, but that royalties may decrease to provide a sufficient return on investment. Jay-Z commented in an interview to Billboard that artists would be paid more by being streamed on Tidal than with Spotify, stating "Will artists make more money? Even if it means less profit for our bottom line? Absolutely. That's easy for us. We can do that. Less profit for our bottom line, more money for the artist; fantastic. Let's do that today." In the same interview he also stressed the service was for people "lower down on the food chain". "For someone like me, I can go on tour, but what about the people working on the record, the content creators and not just the artists? If they're not being compensated properly, then I think we'll lose some writers and producers and people like that who depend on fair trade. Some would probably have to take another job, and I think we'll lose some great writers in the process."
On February 27, 2016, Yesh Music, LLC and John Emanuele from the band The American Dollar launched a $5 million class-action lawsuit that claimed Tidal has yet to compensate the band for any of the royalty payments accrued from the streaming of the band's 116 copyrighted songs. The suit also accused Tidal of using faulty numbers to payout artists while also having undercut these same individuals by 35%. A response from Tidal has stated that they are indeed fully up to date on all royalties for the group and have removed said intellectual property from their servers.
In January 2017, Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv ('Today's Business') reported that it had received internal documents disclosing lower subscriber counts than had been publicly announced by Tidal and its owners, having only 350,000 users in September 2015 (contradicting a claim by Jay-Z that the service had a million users), and 850,000 subscribers by March 2016, rather than the 3 million claimed by the service (which may have been inflated by including users that were using a free trial).
In May 2018, Dagens Næringsliv published a report accusing Tidal of intentionally falsifying streaming numbers for Beyoncé's Lemonade and Kanye West's The Life of Pablo albums and consequently paying inflated royalties to the artists' record labels. The newspaper supported its report with a comprehensive study from Norwegian University of Science and Technology's Center for Cyber and Information Security in Gjøvik. Variety reported, the music service, which "has rarely shared its data publicly", being the exclusive streaming platform for both albums, "claimed that West’s album had been streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days of release in February of 2016, while claiming it had just 3 million subscribers–a claim that would have meant every subscriber played the album an average of eight times per day; and that Beyonce’s album was streamed 306 million times in its first 15 days of release in April of 2016."
"Beyoncé's and Kanye West's listener numbers on Tidal have been manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays… which has generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.” It bases this claim on data contained within a hard drive it obtained that “contains ‘billions of rows of [internal TIDAL data]: times and song titles, user IDs and country codes"
The company denied any wrongdoing. Following the allegations, Norwegian collection society TONO filed an official police complaint against Tidal. Danish music organization Koda has also announced that it will be conducting an independent audit of Tidal data.
As of February 2017, Tidal is available in 52 countries. As of February 2016, the two Tidal subscriptions are listed below. However, prices differ from country to country, according to local market standards.
No free option is available.
As of June 2017, Sprint is offering a 6-month free trial of Tidal HiFi to its customers. After the 6-month trial it becomes $9.99 billed to the Sprint customers account.
|Name||Price per month||Free of Ads||Listening time||High fidelity, lossless audio||Bitrate||Codec|
|Tidal Premium||Yes||Unlimited||No||320 kbit/s or 96 kbit/s (mobile)||AAC (All supported operating systems)|
||Yes||Unlimited||Yes||variable||FLAC (Android/Windows), ALAC (iOS/macOS), MQA (desktop app)|