Written by Brendan McManus
Throughout the history of music there has been a multitude of mediums used to listen and enjoy music. From concert halls to vinyl records to cassette tapes to CD’s and iTunes, people have been drawn to the easiest and most accessible way to listen to their favorite songs. Today, the frontrunner is music streaming.
For the past several years, users have had access to legal, non-user friendly platforms or services like Spotify and Pandora. Now, with this new wave of streaming services like Tidal and Apple Music is there any more room in the streaming competition and how will it shape the way people listen to music?
From the get-go I knew that once Apple threw their hat into the ring, the competition in music streaming might literally be over. For example, Jay Z’s Tidal was a gigantic disaster and understanding why it was a giant disaster might be the key to understanding what people want from a streaming service.
In theory Jay Z’s Tidal had a lot going for it. It was marketed extremely well. He had the biggest names in music at its press conference, it promised exclusive releases from an eclectic group of musicians, and it guaranteed the best sound quality possible on a music streaming service. So why did it fail?
The first and most obvious was the price. Tidal is essentially charging people money for what they can get for free. If Tidal was going to charge $20 per month on a streaming service (twice as much as Spotify) they would need to provide something extra that makes it worth the money. However, Tidal doesn’t provide anything extra that makes it worth the money. Tidal only promises higher sound quality and exclusive releases. However the exclusive releases don’t matter if they can leak everywhere on the internet. And the sound quality that Tidal promises won’t make the service that more special because your average music streamer is content with their current sound quality.
Just recently the dominance of streaming services where put in the headlines due to Taylor Swift’s rant about how streaming services, especially Spotify, weren’t paying their artists enough and therefore she didn’t want to be a part of both Spotify and Apple Music. She addressed Apple Music upfront saying that if Apple Music doesn’t pay the artist for their 3 months trial, she won’t be a part of it. Personally, I think that it was a big risk for Taylor to publicly put the company Apple and streaming services in general in the hot spot. I’d admit that she is one of the biggest musicians around today but does she have the authority to criticize Apple?
Surprisingly she does have the authority because just days later after her letter to Apple, Apple released a statement agreeing with Taylor saying that they will pay their artists on Apple Music.
This topic is important for musicians because we are living in an age where albums sales barely matter, and where clicking share on Soundcloud is more important than radio time. In this age of pirating it is important to support our artists and it is important that artists feel like they can make a living off making music.