Jay Z’s Tidal and the Music Revolution

Jay Z has the heart of a hustler. His entrepreneurial instincts earned him multiple platinum albums, his own record label, and Beyoncé. But with Tidal, Hova’s music streaming service, that hustler’s ambition may have overstepped its boundaries.

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Tidal bills itself as the future of music. In the its first promo video that aired a year ago, an elite squad of the world’s most successful and popular music acts such as Daft Punk, Coldplay, and Jack White gather around a conference table in celebration of the new music-streaming app. The first spoken words come from Kanye West, one of Tidal’s biggest backers, as he prophesies, “I just thought about how crazy this is, like the beginning of the new world.”

Unfortunately, ‘Ye is far from the truth.


Besides the fully-fledged support of Jay Z and Kanye, as well as a few almost unnoticeable special features, Tidal is no different from its competition. I’m not sure which of his financial advisors told Jay that investing in Tidal would be wise, but they should clean out their desk before the end of the day.


I do not hold Jay Z entirely accountable for the soon-to-be Tidal flop. The Internet is changing the music industry. There is no longer an established norm on how artists can deliver their music to the fans. The days of purchasing hard copy units are coming to a close and the trend is shifting to online distribution.


I believe music belonging online rather than record stores is more favorable for consumers. A faint Wi-Fi connection is the only thing needed to listen to music.   There is also little to no constraint on the types of music a listener can discover. By no longer depending on the radio to discover new artists, listeners can take the responsibility of developing their taste in music into their own hands. Without the Internet, I never would have known I have a propensity to enjoy Japanese jazz music as well as Swedish industrial house music.


The Internet has also made it easier for artists to be heard. I think our own classmate William Bolton is a perfect example. For 4 years now he has been releasing music for free online with the help of apps like SoundCloud and Spotify. The Internet has allowed Willy B to bring his talents to the public and has resulted in a substantial following. Without the help of record labels or managers, his hard work alone has allowed him to acquire millions of plays and his first concert tour. As a music fan, it makes me happy to see an artist’s hard work result in success. It’s a modern version of the American dream.


The Internet is also changing the way music “tastemakers” conduct their business. Marc Ecko’s Complex magazine originally started in 2002 as an exclusively print publication. It is a magazine that focuses on music culture and spotlighting artists that Complex believes the public should be exposed to. Complex sifts outs the gems, making the world of music more accessible. But as the Internet grows and changes the music industry, print publication was no longer sufficient enough to keep the public happy. Today, a vast majority of Complex’s content appears exclusively online. The complex website makes over a dozen posts a day in order to keep up and stay contemporary.



When Jay Z started Tidal, he placed a large emphasis on maintaining the integrity of artists and their craft. He planned to do this by provided fair royalties to the artists and giving consumers lossless music files. Yeah right.

Reading through the lines, I believe the true essence of Tidal is elitism. Jay Z got tired of his music being downloaded for free (a fair objection). Being that he had the power and funding, Jay Z decided that he would attempt to change the music industry in a way that would favor the already established artists.

Unfortunately for Jay, the public feels differently. Statistics have shown that music consumers are more concerned with getting music for free (or as cheap as possible) rather than watching a music video in 4k quality.


I am very excited to be a music fan at this time. I believe we are in the middle of a revolution (for lack of a better word). I think we are moving away from big business and back to the music, man.




  1. I agree and think that Tidal is too risky for users to join right now. Why would I pay for a service that might not be around in a month? Also, Tidal emphasizes their competitive advantage of “high fidelity” or “hi-fi” music and videos. The music quality on Spotify and YouTube sounds great to me, so there’s no incentive to gain access to this “higher quality” of music. I most likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

  2. Hey, this is a great post. I definitely agree with you that Tidal is a stupid idea. It seems to offer no real benefit to the consumers over what other services provide yet it costs more. It’s weird that someone who is as good of a business man as Jay-Z would choose to invest in something so ridiculous. I would be surprised if Tidal is even around for much longer. Furthermore, Youtube has recently come out with a mobile app called Youtube Music which offers both streaming audio and streaming music videos and it’s all free. This new app, as well as the new Apple Music, could hasten Tidal’s already inevitable demise.

  3. I think the revolution is over. Recorded music will be (essentially) free. Artists better be prepared to make their money on live shows, which is why they’re so expensive. It also does promote niche music rather than a few big players.

  4. I think it’s notable that you pointed out the pointlessness of Tidal’s “hi-fi” streaming. The bottom line is that the average listener cannot regularly distinguish flac files from mp3’s, even god-forsaken wma’s or something very lossy like that. The demand for the service might never come to fruition. I also agree very much with Professor’s point that artists are turning their recorded music towards a free model. It’s impossible to stop users from getting music for free, so I think the way artists adjust to this will speak volumes for the industry going forward. Thanks for this post!!

  5. I remember when TIDAL first came out. I was open to new ideas and loved so many of the artists in the commercial / owners club that I just wanted to believe that it really was going to be better. A service by the artists, for the people? No middleman? It had the right idea behind it but in the end it just had no competitive edge. I really agree with Prof Kane’s comment above too; music is going to be practically free, and there’s nothing artists can do about it. I guess this post has really made me reconsider my perspective on concert ticket prices, given it’s now going to be musicians’ main source of revenue. Thanks for the post.

  6. I think Tidal is trying to move into an already overcrowded market. Spotify has definitely established itself as a leader (even despite losing big names such as Taylor Swift), SoundCloud allows listeners to discover new artists, Pandora is not quite as relevant but still an effective way to stream music for free and Apple recently released radio. Consumers have access to all of these options and can also choose to download music for free (although it may be illegal) from the internet.

    I also don’t think consumers are concerned about the integrity of the artists. In the end, Jay Z and Rihanna and many of the other artists on Tidal are going to remain millionaires regardless of whether or not people are streaming their music for free. Music is a huge part of our culture and people want to make sure that they have access to a wide variety of it at a low cost. Whether or not I spend $1.29 on iTunes to purchase a Rihanna song probably won’t have a huge impact on her, but as a broke college student buying songs on iTunes or purchasing a Tidal account as opposed to getting songs for free can definitely have an impact on my bank account.

  7. Good synopsis of the changing music industry online, especially commenting on the supposed success of Tidal and the real-world flow that ensued afterwards. I think Spotify and Soundcloud will continue to be met with friction from well-established artists such as Taylor Swift and Kanye, as they will turn to platforms that meet their demands. Their voices will be heard by Apple music and other streaming services because of their extreme influence on the industry. However, smaller artists will continue to reap the benefits of free music streaming services as they create the exposure that goes along with it.

  8. I completely agree, I don’t think I will ever be a tidal user and even TLOP didn’t get me to start a free trial so I think nothing will. Spotify and Soundcloud have definitely opened the playing field for producers as well as consumers. I think the last CD I bought was Twista or 50 cent, and I have been on the limewire/frostwire/torrenting train since and have downloaded and discovered 95% of music through the internet. I am happy and eager to see what kinds of artists emerge, much like our class mate Will, using these new platforms.

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