When Kanye West first announced the release of his new album “The Life of Pablo," the Internet blew up. West’s last six albums all reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, so it seems like his new album would do the same, right?
Well, not exactly.
“The Life of Pablo” has been out for weeks now, yet cannot be found anywhere on the sales charts. This is because Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” can only be found on Tidal. Tidal is a service “dedicated to creating a more just revenue sharing model for artists," which "stands for full transparency in our industry," and which "challenges all the music streaming services to do the same." Tidal refuses to release the streaming numbers of “T.L.O.P.” to Nielsen Music, which is in charge of creating Billboard’s chart rankings.
This seems like an odd move for Kanye West, especially since he is claiming to be $53 million in debt, but West has reasons for making his music exclusive to Tidal. According to the website, Tidal is a more honest service than many of the others out there.
Our artist-owners developed our model so that TIDAL pays the highest percentage of royalties to artists, songwriters and producers of any music streaming service. That means we make less in order to pay each and every artist on TIDAL more. And importantly, we don’t have a free tier and we don't hide any of the revenue that free services make from advertisers buying ads on their services.
Despite Tidal being a way for artists to make the royalties they wouldn’t normally be able to receive with other major music-sharing sites, buyers and fans view Tidal as just another music giant. When Tidal first launched, there was a publicized signing with all of the major co-owners that confused fans. Instead of the signing conveying the message, “I am a musician and I want to be paid fairly for my work,” the signing looked more like a bunch of already-rich musicians saying, “I am going to be a co-owner of this company because it will make my music exclusive and then I’ll make more money.” While some fans may be turned off to Tidal, they shouldn’t take it out on the musicians. The artists don’t decide on the price of their music, and so the artists are just trying to receive the money they should have been receiving a long time ago, before Tidal allowed them this opportunity.
The founding Tidal artists are Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire (Win Butler and Regine Chassagne), Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, Usher, and T.I.
Tidal may have good intentions, but it is still a business. Tidal has agreements with all major record companies, Universal, Warner, and Sony, as well as many other independent companies. One major advantage Tidal has above other music-sharing competitors like Spotify and Apple is that the artists on Tidal gift the service with exclusive content. The exclusive content could include new music, music videos, or even full-concert videos.
What makes Tidal different than other sites is that it uses “lossless sound." The easiest way to describe lossless sound is by comparing the sound quality of a CD to an MP3. The clear, high quality sound of a CD is lossless sound, whereas an MP3 has been compressed and thus sounds worse.
Tidal has not officially released the numbers of subscribers it has, which can mean the company is either doing really well or not well at all. Apparently, Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” has more than doubled Tidal’s subscribers from 1 to 2.5 million, but there is no way of knowing that for sure. While West’s contribution helps for the image of the company, the amount of subscribers is pretty insignificant when compared to Spotify’s 20 million paying subscribers.
Tidal’s free trial period ends after 30 days. If Tidal wants to survive, there needs to be more than just a new Kanye West album to offer. Otherwise, all of the users who just signed up for “The Life of Pablo” are going to cancel their subscriptions before the new trial period ends, and Tidal will be a thing of the past.