The market for streaming music just got more competitive: rapper Jay Z launched Tidal, his new service, this week. Tidal promises, “high fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos and expertly curated editorial,” as well as equity to musicians who decide to join Jay Z in owning the service.
Tidal will also not be offering any free content. Instead, it will offer two monthly subscriptions based on audio quality: $9.99 for standard compressed audio and $19.99 for higher quality files, such as CD.
“There are some of us audiophiles who believe that this higher quality audio is better but most people, including, for example, my mother-in-law just don’t’ care,” says Ian Sherr, executive editor at CNET. “And Jay Z has got to convince us all that this is worth paying potentially more money.”
The only way Tidal can compete, Sherr adds, is if there are more “audiophiles” out there who would be willing to pay higher prices for better quality.
“What we do know is that the landscape is littered with people who have failed at this,” says Sherr. “And failed at streaming in general. It’s expensive.”
Does Jay Z offer no advantage? He does, according to Sherr: “Him. He has the Jay Z brand behind him. He also has the Beyonce brand.”
So far that’s helped him successfully court musicians for exclusive access to their tracks, at least for a limited time.
“That could be compelling,” says Sherr. “People love to be the first to hear things. People love to be the first to see things.”
Jay Z might be late to the game, but that doesn’t mean the move won’t work. There are other pitfalls, however.
Says Sherr, “What Jay Z has at stake is obviously money, but also if he isn’t able to pull this off, it’s going to raise questions about, does the music industry understand how to actually sell to consumers?”