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From Drug Dealer to Billionaire

The rapper Jay-Z, birthname: Shaun Carter, is known for many things. He is the embodiment of the classic rags to riches story in hip hop, rising up from the selling crack cocaine on street corners in New York City to becoming one of the best-known, top-selling recording rap artists of all time. He is known for putting out some of the most highly revered and critically acclaimed hip hop albums of all time, including his debut release Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint series, and The Black Album. He has also won a total of 24 Grammy awards over the span of his nearly 30-year career, including a special Salute to Industry Icons award in 2018 honoring his hard work over the years.

But Jay-Z’s career does not begin and end with producing top-tier rap music of his own. He is also the CEO of one of the most successful rap record labels of all time, Roc-A-Fella Records, which has since evolved into Roc Nation. On top of that, he founded a successful clothing company, Rocawear; he is often cited as being responsible for bringing Kanye West into the limelight; he is part owner of the NBA basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets; and he is married to arguably the most powerful woman in the world, Beyonce. Today, a street rapper turned billionaire, he is nothing short of a mogul, in every sense of the word.

There is one other product that often gets overshadowed by all of Jay-Z’s towering successes, that people do not often think of immediately when they think of all of the things that Shaun Carter has contributed to the world. And that is, of course, his audio streaming service, Tidal. Often criticized as one of his riskier business tactics, Tidal has had a difficult time competing with the other subscription-based music streaming giants of the word like Spotify and Apple Music.

Tidal, in its 5 years of existence, has seen its fair share of ups and downs, as far as user base and success are concerned. When there are already two other well-established, extremely popular music streaming services that have been doing essentially the same thing as Tidal, Jay-Z and his team were faced with an ongoing dilemma: how can Tidal differentiate itself?

An Exclusive Streaming Platform

Well, the first answer to this question was to remove certain artists’ discographies, such as Jay-Z’s himself, from the other streaming services in hopes that more dedicated fans would jump ship when they realized that they could only stream certain artists on Tidal. This did not prove as successful as they had hoped, however, it seemed as if most people were content sticking with their streaming service of choice that they already had. Tidal also nabbed a few of the artists that refused to give Spotify and Apple Music rights to their music as well, like Taylor Swift, adding to Tidal’s air as the streaming service of exclusivity.

Furthering that notion, Tidal began offering Tidal exclusive releases, live performances, singles, and music videos. This was to be Tidal’s in, the thing that sets them apart from the pack, to offer things that only Tidal could offer. They began obtaining the rights to release certain albums a week earlier than all other streaming services, live streaming VIP events like listening parties and once in a lifetime performances that couldn’t be seen elsewhere, and they are still, more or less, following this model to this day. For example, Kanye West’s recent opera, Nebuchadnezzar was live-streamed as a Tidal exclusive. If you weren’t there for the performance of it at the Hollywood Bowl in California on November 24th, 2019, Tidal was your only means of watching it.

But how does Tidal stack up to the other music and audio streaming services out there as far as performance, sound quality, selection, customized features, and site/app design are concerned? And is a Tidal subscription worth the monthly subscription fee? Well, let’s take a look at Tidal, shall we, and find out once and for all? Who knows, maybe Tidal will even convert some devout Spotify or Apple Music users today.

Two-Tiered Subscription

First off, let’s look at the price. Because the way that Tidal tiers its subscription packages is a little bit different from many of the other services out there. There is the baseline premium subscription to Tidal, which is comparable to what Spotify and Apple Music offer. It is $9.99 per month. And in exchange, you get standard sound quality, HD music videos, and “expertly curated editorial” playlists made just for you. This baseline premium plan also comes as a family package for only $5 more a month, allowing you to add 6 accounts total to the plan.

Additionally, however, Tidal offers a HIFI version of its service at about twice the price of the premium package. For $19.99 per month, users receive lossless High Fidelity sound quality in addition to all of the services that come with a premium. So, essentially, Tidal expects some of its subscribers to pay around $20 a month just for better sound quality.

And, hey, this may seem laughable at first, but don’t underestimate the niche demographic of true audiophiles around the world. There are plenty of people who value quality audio and will certainly pay $20 a month for it. Plus, Tidal prides itself on being the streaming service that pays the most to artists in royalties; so, if you have the extra cash, it can’t hurt to know that at least your money is going to the artists you spend your time listening to.

What does Tidal offer, though, in exchange for your monthly subscription? Well, they claim to have a library of over 60 million songs and 250,000 HD music videos. That’s not bad at all. In fact, as far as the quantity of songs is concerned, Tidal has twice as much music available as Spotify, which reports having over 30 million individual tracks. So, maybe there is something to all of this Tidal buzz after all.

By the Artists for the Fans

Another thing that Tidal offers that other music streaming services do not is a regularly updated roster of expertly curated playlists. Now, we aren’t talking playlists that were thrown together by plugging an algorithm into a computer. No, these are lists that are hand-selected by music journalists, artists, and other professionals who actually know and love music. It adds a certain human touch to Tidal’s playlists that you won’t really find anywhere else, even furthering the platform’s reputation as a streaming service for serious fans and artists.

All of this is making Tidal look pretty appealing so far if you ask me. but what about the platform’s usability? It’s one thing to have an impressive list of features and unique gimmicks, but none of it amounts to a whole lot if the user experience isn’t seamless and streamlined. In other words, how does Tidal itself, the site and the app, stack up against the competition in terms of design? Well, honestly, it’s just as intuitive (if not more so) than Spotify and Apple Music. It offers a sleek design that you will immediately know how to use without having to stumble around whatsoever.

Great Site and App Design

On the home page of Tidal, for example, you have everything you could want clearly organized for you to browse and play. It is broken into clear cut sections, with featured artists, albums, and playlists at the top of the page. Next, you’ll find a few lists of timely playlists. At the current moment, with Christmas and the New Year right around the corner, there is a section dedicated specifically to Holiday playlists and the Best of the year.

Below that, are a few artist spotlight playlists, referred to on Tidal as Now Playing, which give you a glimpse into an artist that maybe you are less familiar with, based on what fans have been listening to by them. Then, you’ll find a list of selected new tracks, albums, popular playlists, and featured playlists, which only add to the unique Tidal experience.

Plus, Tidal offers a huge selection of up and coming artists in their Tidal Rising section, which makes it easier than ever to find new music and to stay ahead of the curb on what’s next to dominate the music industry. Then, of course, you have a menu from which you can access all of your own playlists, mixes, albums, tracks, and music videos, and an Explore tab that allows you to browse Tidal’s massive music library by genre. You may not get quite as customized experience as Spotify offers, but you should have no problem discovering new songs and artists, nonetheless.

All in all, if you are looking for a more exclusive experience than either Spotify or Apple Music can provide, Tidal is going to be your best bet. If you want everything that the other music streaming services offer and then some, Tidal will be for you. Whether you choose the basic premium membership or the lossless audio quality HIFI option, your Tidal experience is bound to be a positive one.

Likes & Hates:
60 million songs, 250,000 music videos
Exclusive content
Lossless sound quality Hi-Fi subscription option
Artist-owned and operated, highest royalty payout in industry
Streamlined and user-friendly design
Mobile friendly/high-quality app
Price for Hi-Fi