In Depth

What is Tidal? Jay Z's new streaming service scorned

#Tidalforall or #Tidalfornoone? Beyonce, Madonna and Rihanna among stars to support new platform

Jay Z launched his new streaming service Tidal last night, backed by some of the world's biggest names in music. Madonna, Beyonce, Rihanna and Kanye West were among the "co-owners" to join him at the event in New York City. Each celebrity signed a document pledging to join the "movement to change the status quo" in front of a screaming audience, while Alicia Keys promised a "better experience for fans and for artists". But critics have suggested the focus is more likely to be on the latter...

What is Tidal?

It is a subscription streaming service that Jay Z recently bought for more than $50m with the hope of rivalling Spotify and other companies.

How is it different to its competitors?

Tidal is billed as the first-ever artist-owned music platform and is said to go "beyond commerce and technology". Jay Z says he and his celebrity co-owners are different from tech companies selling advertising and hardware because they have a "passion" for music. "Right now, they [other streaming services] are writing a story for us," he says. "We need to write the story for ourselves."

Who else is involved?

Jack White, Nicki Minaj, Chris Martin, Usher, Calvin Harris and Daft Punk were also among the famous co-owners at yesterday's event, which was technically a re-launch under Jay Z's new ownership, as the service was first unveiled in October last year. According to the Financial Times, they have been offered a mix of stock and cash for promotional support. "At least one act was offered as much as $3m and a 3 per cent stake in the new service," says the newspaper.

How does Tidal compare to Spotify?

Tidal is charging £9.99 a month for a basic subscription and £19.99 for a high-quality audio subscription, with a seven-day free trial, while Spotify offers a free version, as well as the option of upgrading to a £4.99 or £9.99 premium service. Both offer similar music, but Tidal is expected to feature more exclusive music and previews of unreleased albums. It also promises to send users songs in 1411 kbps FLAC, which is better than CD quality and Spotify's best quality, which is about 320 kbps. But that means nothing if the hardware is not made for it and most speakers are not, says Andrew Griffin at The Independent.

#Tidalforall or #Tidalfornoone?

On Twitter, celebrities turned their avatars blue and circulated a #Tidalforall hashtag to promote the launch, but soon a new hashtag – #Tidalfornoone – began to trend. "You guys don't ever have to work another day in your life should you choose to, why should we pay more for the same music?" asked one Tweeter. Others summed up the project as "millionaire singers wanting more money".

A star-studded launch video – in which Jay Z hails the "beginning of a new world" – was also panned as an "advert disguised as social activism". Sky's Tom Cheshire says the new venture is not about those listening to music, but those making a lot of money from it. He concludes: "Tidal's superstars know that their music in particular is valuable, and are simply trying to carve out a little bit more of that value for themselves."

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