Tonight we're going to fight digital music like its 1999.
If there are two things the majority of us can agree we're sick of this year, it's Taylor Swift and the barely-staying-afloat streaming service, Tidal. Previously hailed as the future of music, Tidal has suffered from lawsuits, a questionable business model, and a higher than average price point.
So here comes Prince, here to save Jay-Z's sinking ship by painting it purple. That's right. The artist formerly known as some obscure symbol has chosen Tidal as the exclusive outlet for his 34th studio album, HitNRun Phase One. Oh, but there's more! I'm sure you're aware of those vaults of unreleased Prince tracks that span his entire career? Enter Purple Pick of the Week, where Prince will release one song from the vault each week, exclusively on Tidal.
This development is not entirely shocking, considering that earlier this year, Prince pulled his entire catalog off every streaming service except Tidal. Rumors have buzzed for quite some time that an exclusivity deal was signed between Jay-Z and Prince to keep his work on Tidal. But at what cost?
Who Does He Think His Fans Are? Honestly, how many people in Prince's target audience have active Tidal Accounts? Prince's most commercially successful work came out in the early '80s. That places his largest demographic in their 40's. Unless you work in the industry or are a grade A audiophile, or at least think you are, the chance of an average Prince fan having a Tidal account is very slim. Great job! You just cut the people that would probably be most eager to hear your music, especially the vault tracks, out of the entire equation.
Exclusive is an understatement. Frustrations with streaming services are almost universal among artists. However, Prince's choice to move all of his music to a sinking service that boasts "better treatment" for artists, comes off more as Napster Era "DIGITAL MUSIC WILL DESTROY THE INDUSTRY" paranoia, than a smart business move. Tidal was introduced as a savior, and has seemingly devolved into a niche of the internet for music's elite. The model of exclusivity can only survive with artists like Prince, or even Beyonce, who have developed enough of a reputation that they don't need to release their music the old fashioned way and hope it gets exposure. For the average artist, it would be career suicide. "You don't know me, but you should pay for a subscription before you can even hear what I sound like." Thanks, but no thanks.
In a statement regarding the new album, Prince said, "Tidal have honored Us with a non-restrictive arrangement that once again allows Us to continue making art in the fashion We've grown accustomed 2 and We're Extremely grateful 4 their generous support. And lastly, in the tech-savvy, real-time world We all live in 2day, everything is faster. From its conception and that one & only meeting, HitNRun took about 90 days 2 prepare its release. If that's what freedom feels like, HitNRun is what it sounds like."
Go pay for it. I dare you. For those who are intrigued, Tidal does offer a 30 day free trial, should you decide to make a liar out of me and check out HitNRun Phase One. That trial will give you access to the new album and 4 of the vault tracks, so you can say you at least got to hear some of the unreleased content. For the rest of us lowly peasants, we can still jam out to this Party Mix Compilation of "1999," until Tidal inevitably collapses.