Six days ago, Kanye West dropped his new album The Life of Pablo. Using social media to promote it over the last couple of months and even more recently, the highly anticipated album has lived up to the hype. There is one catch, however. If you want to listen to it, you can only do so on Tidal.
Tidal, a high fidelity music streaming service from Jay-Z’s Project Panther Ltd., has exclusive streaming rights to the album, so in order to listen to it fans that have not already done so need to download and sign up for the app. The app, which has subscriptions starting at $9.99/month, offers a free month trial and people are taking advantage of that, as the release of West’s album helped the app soar to the top of the App Store’s charts.
With Rihanna and Future doing similar exclusive releases to Tidal and Apple Music respectively, West and these artists are starting a new trend. If people want to listen to this specific music, they have to subscribe to certain music streaming services. I know I was a little reluctant to download Tidal at first, even knowing about the free month, but I had to do it because I wanted to listen to the music, even though I have been a premium subscriber of Spotify for over a year now. These exclusive releases have started an arms race between all of these services, vying for fans and subscribers.
This is a trend that will not let up, and even West plans to release his next mixtape exclusively through the service. Musicians, including a lot of the co-owners of Tidal, have been opposed to streaming services, naturally because people will buy less albums and their compensation will likely not be as great without it. Now, specifically more popular artists, have a chance to make a deal with streaming services that might make the exclusivity worth even more than spreading the music all around. If they can work out a deal with one of these services, I’d doubt that the financial compensation for that would be worth considering.
The question that comes next is if one or two of the services will end up shutting down the rest. Listeners will want to listen to as much music as possible, so they will look to the streaming service that can do that better than the rest. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, and even more interestingly, see the unique ways different artists choose to supply their music to the world.