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Tidal exec hits back at the many, many, many, many critics

By | Published on Thursday 2 April 2015


Hey you, stop being all down on Tidal, will you?

That bizarre and awkward press conference? A piece of avant garde artistic genius that you just haven’t managed to appreciate yet.

The over-confidence in more than nine people caring about HD audio? A clever ruse that you’ve just failed to latch on to.

The spinning of same-old same-old as if it were the most magnificent innovation? Well, there’s nothing innovative about actually innovating my friend.

The rather ambiguous claims about being more artist-friendly? Ambiguity is mysterious, and everyone loves a good mystery, get with the moment granddad.

The pushing of the wider streaming sector into artist exclusives and album windowing, fracturing the consumer experience? Well, fuck the consumer, I say. What have they ever done for anyone? Stole your music, that’s what. Fuck em.

And suspicions all those A-lister “shareholders” are just a publicity stunt? Hey, don’t be so patronising. Premiere league popstars can out-cunt any venture capitalist and Wall Street wolf if they put their minds to it.

So, we all agree, Tidal is the single greatest thing to happen to music since the first caveman ever hummed? And Jay-Z is not only some kind of god, he is the God, the one so many people like to sing about, especially at this time of year.

But just in case you’re still one of the sad old hold-outs on the most magnificent Tidal party, J-Zed’s Chief Investment Officer Vania Schlogel, head hunted from private equity group KKR just last year, has been telling Billboard why you’re all so very clearly wrong. “There is bravery in what these artists are trying to do”, she insists. “It’s not to fill their own pockets, it’s to create a sustainable industry. And what we’re promising to people is, ‘this is gonna continue to evolve’ and we really mean that”.

Because this is just the beginning, OK? “We’re a young company”, she adds. “We just took control of it not that long ago, so if anyone is sceptical at all about, ‘Hey you don’t have that feature or that activity in it’, just bear with us, hold, wait, be patient and invest that time because the artists, me, everyone want to deliver something that’s going to be incredible and which will continue to evolve”.

So that’s all lovely, but let’s talk about the money. How will Tidal be better for artists? Will Tidal royalties really be better? “Because there isn’t that free tier, the royalty payment on a per-stream basis will be multiples higher on a per-stream basis than services that offer music for free. That’s point number one”.

Well, that makes sense doesn’t it? Because point one is basically “we’re like all the other streaming services that don’t have a freemium level”. You know, all the ones no one ever uses.

But there’s more. “Point number two is artists that join. When it comes down to it, technology is distribution, what they bring is the art. And without their art and their content, this distribution is meaningless. So it’s important for us fundamentally that artists participate in the equity of this company. Number one, they’re gonna be paid multiples higher on a per-stream basis. Number two, they’re gonna be participating in the equity upfront, and that’s a real, core tenet”.

Got that, right? What could be clearer? Well, it could be clearer what she means by “join”, and how artists beyond the a-list line up that rocked up to Monday’s event will be “participating in the equity upfront”.

Though, echoing remarks made by Jay-Z himself earlier in the week, Schlogel seems very keen to stress that, now it’s under artist management, Tidal is focused exclusively on making money by providing music and music experiences to music fans – ie there’s no hidden agenda to sell tech products, or adverts, or consumer data, or to build a brand that can generate investors a few billion on Wall Street. It’s all about selling music.

“We need to fundamentally change the discourse”, she muses. “Everybody has been trained to think that music is this cool thing in marketing used to sell other things, that music doesn’t have a value in itself. And it’s like, no we can’t do that, we can’t allow that to be the conversation in how things are going. Intrinsically music itself has a value”.

And: “It doesn’t just have a value because it sold consumer electronics. We all feel that emotionally, and now it’s just making sure we marry up that emotional connection with the real understanding of all that’s gone into the industry and gone into making that song continues to produce a sustainable music industry”.

So hey, you, be as cynical as you like, and we’ll try our best to out-cynic you. The launch was a mess, the HD-audio thing is misguided, the innovation claims seem weak, the artist friendly thing is unproven, the exclusives plan isn’t popular, and the A-lister shareholder story didn’t feel credible.

But on that last point – why can’t we just sell music for music’s sake? – Shawn and Schlogel are speaking for many in the music community. Of course, some of Tidal’s competitors would argue that they are ultimately focused on the same mission. But whatever, while Team Tidal may as yet surprisingly succeed or spectacularly fail, if Schlogel is right, their motive is a whole lot better than many people have suggested this week.