Meet Shawn. Shawn has had his world shaken, and his community destroyed, by the natural disaster of free music streaming. Happening a mere few years after the digital market put a strangled hold on his people, this man raised in the projects of Brooklyn (actually, I think he lives in Beverly Hills now but let’s not split hairs), is financially struggling to support his wife and children. Look, him and his wife don’t even have a proper house. They live on a boat.
For just $20 a month you can sponsor Shawn or one of his deprived friends by supporting Tidal. Tidal is a new music streaming service that promises peerless sound quality only noticeable through those $300 headphones you can obviously afford if you’ve got $20 a month to spend on streaming music.
Please help these tired, hungry millionaires from having to get their Lobster shipped in from The Gulf of Mexico instead of Maine. For details please see the video below.
Seriously though, take a look at that press conference. They’re deprived alright, but what I think they’re deprived of is a world perspective that can’t be seen through the dark tint of a limo window. Do they really think that the world will fall at their feet and pay twice as much to listen to the music of the world’s most elite artists?
So, eighteen of the world’s richest performers call together a media announcement to publicise their new, artist owned streaming venture under Jay-Z’s banner. I get that. What I don’t get is the rhetoric surrounding it. Apparently this service isn’t about sticking the middle finger up at Spotify, who have been shafting artists for years, but about “preserving the importance of music.” As if, a: that was ever in danger, and b: recruiting Nicki Minaj and the guys who wrote the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy is the only thing that could save it.
Alicia Keyes (the voice of the event) then started quoting Nietzsche and Jimmy Hendricks. Now, I love the afro rocking, guitar god just as much as anyone with a taste in good music, but he was prone to a little of the old spiritual, hippy bullshit. When he said that “If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music,” he was likely drinking the same batch of Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid as the rest of the flock in this video.
To be fair, Keyes does say that this is a little bit of an exaggeration. But then, she goes back on her own sensible words. Music dosen’t create social and political upheaval; political activism and slow, legislative progress creates change. Each movement may have had its own soundtrack, but I’ll hazard a guess that it was Marin Luther King and Reverend Jesse Jackson doing most of the heavy lifting to get civil rights going, not Bob Dylan or James Brown.
Speaking of MLK, after hearing the rhetoric Keyes was using in her speech, I think that she probably watched Selma a few too many times before writing it. The narrative being told that night was like the pinnacle of every bad Silicon Valley keynote ever, where they paint the homogenisation of our culture as the banner under which all human beings will unite. The artists even took a moment to all symbolically sign their fealty to the cause. And we all know how American’s feel about pieces of paper signed by prestigious members of the upper classes.
There is even a hashtag that’s been started by these guys called #TIDALforALL. Too bad most of them avoided the Ferguson inspired #BlackLivesMatter like the plague. It’s especially bad when Tidal isn’t even for all, but for the privileged few who can afford such luxury. That is a concept counter- productive to social progress.
— mia wallace (@filmfeminist) March 31, 2015
Everything about the press conference was so other worldly. The worse thing was though, it wasn’t like they were trying to get us to swallow bullshit. It’s rather like they’ve been persuaded that the bullshit is delicious, and that sharing is an unequalled act of generosity.
But it doesn’t stop it being bullshit. The two biggest selling points of the service is the quality of the audio and the financial support the artists creating the music recieve. They even have a test on their website to showcase the improvement in sound fidelity. But I couldn’t tell the difference. I wasn’t exaggerating earlier when I said that you’d need $300 headphones to get the benefit.
As for whole “giving back to the artist” deal, not a single person on stage earns less than $5,000,000 a year. It’s hardly a desperate cause. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear in a few months’ time that Tidal is a pyramid scheme that pays dividends to established artists and leaves the new or less commercially viable ones out in the cold.
Tidal doesn’t provide a musical revolution, nor does it provide any real solution to problems within the now digital based music industry. Tidal only serves to expose the ignorance of multimillionaires who believe that their work is worth more than the already disproportionate amount of money it makes them. They could have used this meeting for so much more than peddling a premium streaming service, and, sadly, even if they did now use their voices for positive change, who in their right mind would listen to them?