Video content is a crucial way of defining your presence as an artist whether you’re just starting out or selling out Madison Square Garden. Recently, the release of Jay Z’s controversial music streaming service, Tidal, has leveraged video content to attract subscribers. What got me to start Tidal’s free trial was the exclusive release of Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj’s “Feeling Myself” music video. Shortly thereafter, Tidal exclusively released Nicki’s video “The Night is Still Young”. Of course, these releases were made less significant when the videos were released on other platforms about a day later. Nevertheless, the videos are a powerful draw for people to visit Tidal’s site, start a free trial, or sign on as a paying subscriber.
The site opens on five consecutive videos from artists ranging from Beyoncé to up-and-comers in other countries. Video is the very first thing you see. Tidal offers exclusive live streaming of concerts and music videos “that you can’t find anywhere else”. That last part seems to be a bit of an exaggeration with music pirates alive and well, but is nevertheless intriguing. Tidal takes a curatorial approach to video promising expertly crafted playlists, hand-selected by Tidal staff.
While Tidal has come under some harsh criticism in the media for its failure to provide a free subscription option unlike its competitors, some of its features support the claim that Tidal is by and for artists. TIDAL RISING, according to the Tidal website is, “A program dedicated to artists from around the globe…built to help accelerate the exposure that artists who are on the verge of breaking big need to gain through exclusive features for TIDAL subscribers.” TIDAL DISCOVERY focuses less on connecting fans and emerging artists and more on giving unheard artists their big break. TIDAL X focuses exclusively on connecting artists and fans through exclusive content. All these features sound great in theory, but Tidal—at least in the media—is crashing and burning. Artists like Lily Allen, 50 Cent and Death Cab for Cutie have all come out with strong statements against the service. Bloomberg released a lengthy article enumerating Jay Z’s shortcomings in his acquisition of the former Norwegian company that has become Tidal.
Tidal made a strong attempt to brand itself as the saviour of harsh streaming practices with a star-studded cast of early investors, stunning video and a mission statement that claims Tidal will, “reestablish the value of music”. However, many Tidal artists, including Beyoncé, don’t actually own the rights to their music, so the premise of streaming run by the artists for the artists has come under harsh scrutiny.
Tidal seems like a better option for rising artists who are not yet under contract or those who are outside the US hoping to attract an international fan base. In this sense, Tidal is great because it provides a really wide window into what those artists are doing by offering their tracks but also supplementing those with biographical information, live streams of concerts, and music videos. Only time will tell how Tidal fares in the coming months; it’s a young company yet but could have a huge impact on music consumption and underscore video content as an important aspect of every artist’s work. Either way, it’s nice to see an attempt to support rising artists and their video content. Best of luck Jay!
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