After Monday’s huge TIDAL launch press conference, most of those who watched were still about what TIDAL will do differently to make them want to pay for streaming music. With the competition of Spotify, Pandora and others on the horizon, most are completely for the idea of artists cutting the middle man, but they don’t see how it will benefit them as customers, either.
The press conference ended without the chance for reporters to ask questions of the company during the Livestream, but BillBoard was able to chat with Jay Z about the reasoning behind TIDAL and how he hopes it will change the landscape of music.
Billboard: When did it first occur to you to get into the streaming business?
Jay Z: A year-and-a-half ago. We saw the movement and how everything was going and figured that this could possibly be the last music format that we see in this lifetime. We didn’t like the direction music was going and thought maybe we could get in and strike an honest blow and if, you know, the very least we did was make people wake up and try to improve the free vs. paid system, and promote fair trade, then it would be a win for us anyway.
Billboard: Musicians have long complained that streaming has rendered music virtually worthless. It doesn’t sound like you’re solely driven by financial reasons, but also by a desire to reset the value proposition of music.
That’s correct, absolutely, and when I spoke to every single person involved that’s what I said. Music is … imagine your life without music. It’s a very valuable part of your life, and like I said, that’s why we got in this business. It seems to be going the other way. People are not respecting the music, and [are] devaluing it and devaluing what it really means. People really feel like music is free, but will pay $6 for water. You can drink water free out of the tap, and it’s good water. But they’re OK paying for it. It’s just the mind-set right now.
Billboard: In some ways music is probably closer to priceless than worthless.
Yes. The experiences that I’ve had growing up with music, you know, I couldn’t trade them for any money in the world. Dancing in the living room to enjoy myself. “Enjoy Yourself,” Michael Jackson. Those moments and just that feeling of joy, it’s priceless, like you said.
Billboard: Someone of your stature can make this case to the other streaming services. Did you try that before you decided to buy in?
Yeah, we talked to every single service and we explored all the options, including creating a white label with a service. But at the end of the day we figured if we’re going to shape this thing the way we see it then we need to have independence. And that became a better proposition for us — not an easier one, mind you.
Billboard: The list of your partners is going to surprise quite a few people. How did you get them involved? Was it as simple as going out and saying, “This is our chance to turn the tide against this thing that’s happening”?
Yeah, pretty much. I talked to everyone one on one about music and about what they would like to see in a service, and how would they like this to go. I wanted to know if they were willing to take a chance, since everyone’s names are attached and their reputations, too.
And I just believe as long as we’re on the side of right, and we’re in this for the right reasons, it will work. It’s just a big opportunity for everyone — not a thing that belongs to any one person. That’s not fair, that’s not a democratic process, and that isn’t the idea behind it.
Billboard: Isn’t another of your goals to make sure the revenue makes its way down the food chain to content creators?
Definitely. For someone like me, I can go on tour. But what about the people working on the record, the content creators and not just the artists? If they’re not being compensated properly, then I think we’ll lose some writers and producers and people like that who depend on fair trade. Some would probably have to take another job, and I think we’ll lose some great writers in the process. Is it fair? No. If you put in work, everyone else, you go to work you get paid. That’s fair trade. It’s what our country is built on.
I’m just saying the producers and people who work on music are getting left out — that’s when it starts getting criminal. It’s like you’re working hard and you’re not receiving. In any other business people would be standing before Congress. They have antitrust laws against this kind of behavior. It almost seems like when it applies to music no one really cares who’s cheated. It’s so disorganized; it’s so disconnected from reality.
Read the full interview, here.
What are your thoughts on TIDAL, so far?