Then, a funny thing happened on the way to innovation. Funny as in weird, not funny haha. Jay-Z and his Justice League of recording artists (including Madonna and Rihanna) signed a declaration (that no one saw the text of), said little and then dipped. The conference was short and horribly bereft of information. The central additional thing we learned was that TIDAL is artist-owned (equity stake was offered) and "combines the best high fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos and expertly curated editorial" for $9.99 and $19.99 (for uncompressed CD quality sound) a month. So...does every subscription dime go to the artists? Is there a significant difference in audio between the subscription options? How large is TIDAL's catalog? Who shot J.R.? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop? Hardly anything was answered and based on what was told, TIDAL was a shockingly unremarkable, more expensive (a negative consumer buzz word) service. "The new world" was a duplicate of the old one, except artists (who so happened to be wealthy) benefitted more this time and consumers (who aren't wealthy) would have less money in their wallet should they break away from pirating and free streaming. Finance and technology blogs pointed out the unoriginal interface and what seemed to be a flawed business model (using the word 'seemed' because, again, few details) where audience gains would be few and the company's bottom line is just as weak as its competitor's (Jay-Z's response to this is interesting; I'll be getting to it). Just as critical, but far more cutting was the reaction from consumers. Due to the piss-poor presentation of the conference, Jay-Z and crew came off like a bunch of elitist, arrogant, greedy millionaires begging for more money at the expense of fans. #TidalForAll quickly became #TidalForNoOne on social media; people were throwing tomatoes and the well-intentioned "movement" where artists get the income they deserve from their own work in the streaming world versus industry executives and suits, was massively misperceived.
Now onto you cocky consumers that I mentioned in my headline. It appalled me how many people tweeted things like "$20 for MUSIC?!," as if music was the equivalent value of tissue paper or paper period (or like TIDAL didn't have a $9.99 option). It trips me out; we wake up, got to sleep, jog, party, cry, clean, have sex, get married and graduate to music, but we don't want to pay for it. We fumble over ourselves to hear it live, but we don't want to pay for it. We claim to love it and need it, have it on every device and bully people online over it (hey, BeyHive!) but we don't want to pay for it. $9.99 or $19.99 a month is too much for thousands of albums when 1 CD used to be around $15 a pop?! Exactly how much do you think music should cost? It should be free?! Exactly what is the value of someone writing a 15-track album about their childhood trauma, writing out 15 musical arrangements for a multi-piece symphony or band (or reproducing that sound with a keyboard), singing it with a 5 octave voice, recording, mixing, mastering and pressing it to CD and putting it on a shelf for you and the masses to relate to and absorb? What is the value of someone performing like Michael Jackson, singing like Whitney Houston and giving you lyrics like the Beatles for 2 hours every other night for a year and a half on tour? That has no worth? None at all? If music is utterly worthless, why do we listen to so much of it? Does it really seem fair that we can take someone's creation or hard work, enjoy it how we like and not give them anything for it? When we love earnestly and get heartbroken, work hard and get paid little, we're disgruntled because what we put forth from our gut was treated like it was meaningless. It's a spit in the face.
Remember when I said Jay-Z had an interesting reply to the observation that TIDAL's bottom line may not be that great? He told Billboard: "Will artists make more money? Even if it means less profit for our bottom line? Absolutely...Less profit for our bottom line, more money for the artist; fantastic." Jay-Z and his misguided millionaires may have given the worst, most gaudy and misleading symposium of their careers, but the keyword here is misleading. If it does what it claims to do, TIDAL is a great idea and if performers are smart, they'll follow Ms. Swift's action. If you give a darn about music or the industry not snapping in half, you'll go ahead at start your TIDAL account today. You can test it out with a trial. Fin.