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Jay Z’s TIDAL is ‘artist-owned.’ Does it matter?

Stan Alcorn Mar 31, 2015
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On Monday, a music-streaming service formerly known as WiMP was relaunched as TIDAL by Aspiro, a Swedish company recently purchased by Jay Z, for $56 million.

The announcement took place at a press conference featuring not only Jay Z, but a line-up of superstar musical acts ranging from Madonna to the Daft Punk guys — complete with robot helmets.

Three takeaways from TIDAL’s debut:

1.The musicians emphasized, repeatedly, that the new product would be artist-owned. (The Financial Times reports that at least 15 musicians received equity portions and cash.)

2. Music lawyer Dina LaPolt says it’s an example of artists doing something major record labels have done — negotiating for not only royalties but equity from streaming companies.  That gives them a piece of the potential upside of a growing streaming business. “About a third of revenues are generated from streaming music services,” says Cara Duckworth of the Recording Industry Association of America. 

3. But how much more artists will make from the “artist-owned” platform remains unclear — even if they’re able to convince consumers to cough up the money for a paid subscription. TIDAL’s membership tiers of $9.99 and $19.99 are slightly more expensive than comparable streaming services, and it offers no free version.  “In terms of the brass tacks of how much artists get paid, there really isn’t much Tidal can do,” says Mark Mulligan, music industry analyst at MIDiA Consulting.

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