Stockholm, Sweden: A city that seems to sleep less than New York, and always seems to provide the world with top shelf entrepreneurship and innovation. This dazzling innovation gave birth to a company that has become the heat of controversy in the music industry, Spotify, created by the infamous Swede, Daniel Ek. With their premium membership of a monthly fee, Spotify has introduced the world to music streaming, or in other words, renting (opposed to buying, like iTunes).
Now, Sweden didn’t seem to make a full stop at Spotify and throw in the think tank towel. Oh no, Scandinavia had another ace up its sleeve: Tidal the distant cousin of Spotify, born of another mother, and raised with a different approach. Tidal took a more liberal approach to the company structure and ownership. The company is the first music service exclusively owned by artists, such as Jay Z and Coldplay.
The two companies have a mixture of freedom and flaw, highs and lows, triumph and tribulation (shall I continue?). However, it’s important to recognize who these companies are, why they are how they are, and what exactly makes them different, all for the sake of which is the best fit for you.
This company is iTunes worst nightmare, and Napster's greatest disciple. Originally founded in 2008 by musician Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Spotify is a music streaming service. Let's make this definition as simple as possible. Music streaming: the act of accessing music through a streaming service without any download or purchase; meaning renting, not buying. It's like Netflix, only for music. And it’s the first service in the market that made this process legal. Now, the only “purchase” necessary for Spotify is the monthly fee of $9.99, and it ranges from the tier of the membership (Premium). Also, students do indeed receive a special discounted membership.
Spotify has a major flaw however: its artist payout isn’t exactly… fair. An artist payout is simply the royalties that the artists received for their music being listened to. Example: listening to one song = $.99 for the artist (not the actual payout). It has some complex formula that has been made to exact the payout, and it’s not exactly fair to the artist, especially in comparison to actually buying music which has a clear cut, fixed payout rate. This whole fiasco has led to criticism, and goes as far as bands taking their music off of Spotify to protest.
However, Spotify is indeed aware of its big problem, and I’m sure it’s trying to resolve it. But don’t let that be a deal breaker as it still helps promote smaller, less known bands in the process of promoting and funding, especially bands that really need the money to fund tours, merch, marketing, etc. Plus, it has a large array of different artists, even some smaller acts that are still headquartered in the drummer's unfinished basement (shout out to all you local bands).
- Queue: Add song to “play next.
- ”Playlist: Create the perfect playlist for events, car rides, parties, moods, etc. Sidebar to see what others are listening to. Also co-creation of a playlist is possible.
- Direct message system to send friends new music you discover.
- Offline listening which requires music to be saved prior while online.
Now, let’s remember one thing: Spotify is the first of it’s kind. It completely knocked down the barrier and proved that iTunes wasn’t the only option, and also made it clear that illegal downloading was avoidable as well. But, this company brought the true competition to the table. Tidal, a Scandinavian originated music streaming service, is the slightly more liberal cousin of Spotify. This company is exclusively owned by a roster of different artists, all supporting this one major idea: fair and equal artist payout. A company run by a group of board members and officers, and owned by artists, Tidal is the second streaming service to reveal itself to the mass market.
It currently has three tiers of membership: Free (self explanatory), which is limited in features; Premium, which is $10 a month and allows unlimited access to its hefty database of music; High Fidelity, which is $20 a month, but gives access to the finest, highest fidelity/quality, “curated” sound for all its music. For all of you audiophiles out there, this may be the real deal, as long as you are willing to pay. It’s payout of royalties is far more elaborate and organized, and gives the artists what they truly deserve. It has been reported that artists can receive nearly more than 3x the amount the Spotify paid, which really adds up.
Okay, so now you get what Tidal is all about, let's talk about it’s bad angles. Criticism has found its way to Tidal, and it’s understandable. Twenty dollars a month for a membership of High Fidelity may sound awesome, but what does that mean to some people? It only makes a difference if it’s important that the sound quality is that much better, and not everybody has the right headphones/speakers to even distinguish the difference in quality. Also, the average consumer doesn’t want to spend $20 a month for a music service. It’s definitely an acquired feature, and it requires some serious devotion to the what the ears are asking for, but remember, they still have the $10 membership which offers all of the music within the database.
Tidal is new to the game, but it made a big entrance. The elephant in the room, however, is High Fidelity (even an audiophile such as myself isn’t willing to pay that much). The company is still worth the shot, and I can totally see it working out the kinks throughout the upcoming years.
- Offline listening
- Editorial teams that release new information and news on your favourite artists
- Discovery, which allows users to discover new, up and coming artists
- Allows you to transfer your playlists from other music services onto Tidal
So, those are the facts. The choice is yours at this point. I, myself, personally use Spotify but that doesn’t mean I won’t dip my feet into the waves that Tidal is creating. Both services need some improvement, like any company does. They are both fairly new compared to programs like iTunes, but they have/will come a long way from their humble beginnings.