This is the time of the year I really enjoy. The Holiday season is always special for me and it is a chance to share love with people in my life. As the months continue for Headphone. Guru I am thankful for the support of our community. The views and support for the site has been overwhelming. As the year closes, I look forward to next year and anticipate a flow of new products for our community to enjoy and get even more excited about. The personal audio market is growing rapidly and exploding with innovative and special products that have made music and music delivery more accessible and with better sound.
Last month I spoke about a Tidal Wave coming. Tidal is the new music service that is streaming CD quality lossless FLAC music. The arrival of Tidal is a revelation for me. The idea of being able to have a library that needs not be stored or loaded onto my computer is a dream come true.
Tidal has a library of over 25 million tracks of music and the enormous library is still growing. The recommendation list done by professionals in the music industry is well done and informative. Listening to new artist and genres make music more exciting and fulfilling. Tidal provides every genre imaginable and even has albums that were recorded in the early 50’s and 60’s. If you’re looking for Elvis Presley’s entire catalog, it is now at your fingertips.
Many music lovers now have the opportunity to listen to high quality sound that previously was never available with any of the other streaming service. The lossless format is much better than MP3. The lower quality sites offering MP3 never appealed to me as an audio enthusiast. Tidal has excellent sound quality and the idea of waiting for new music weekly has me anxiously waiting each and every Tuesday, which is when new releases come out. I have Tidal loaded in my main listening system and have listened to it daily since it has arrived. The idea of not having CD’s on my desk (also has my wife smiling) or having to store them in racks or cases is a welcome relief.
Tidal’s search engine is easy to use. Typing the artist name in will reveal all the albums that the artist has recorded in many instances. The album covers have very nice graphics and you can develop your own playlist of songs. The library has a vast selection of new artist and has opened up my eyes to genres I would not ordinarily listen too. Tidal also offers different selections playlist you can sort through for you musical enjoyment.
The cost for this service is $20 per month and covers three devices. The total yearly subscription cost is a measly $240 year. Competitors offer a similar service for $10 monthly but it is lower quality sound (MP3) and for me is unacceptable to use in high-resolution systems. For $240.00 a year you get a library of approximately 25 Million tracks of music. The amount of music and low price make this a no brainer and easy decision for me.
I had a chance to ask Pal Bratelund, a Norway based Tidal representative, a few questions regarding the Tidal service:
Frank Iacone: There has been artist leaving Spotify and some campaigns to get others to leave subscriptions services as well. How will Tidal deal with retaining the artist?
Pal Bratelund: It is our belief that people will pay for quality. Over 70-75% of all revenue is forwarded to rights holders. When the quality and price point is high, that means more money to the artists, composers and lyricists. The distribution key remains the same as the price goes up.
We also work closely with artists and producers through our editorial product, which gives the opportunity to show the intentions of the art in a completely different way.
If you look at Scandinavia, where 80% of all music revenue is streaming – pulling your catalogue here means separating your music from fans and customers. Which then makes you hard to book because no one has heard the album. I have some friends signed to some very prestigious jazz labels that are not doing streaming. My friends are torn because they feel they are on top of the world being signed to these labels, but still losing out because they don’t get booked anymore since the album hasn’t been played anywhere. Music reviewers don’t even have CD players anymore here.
I think as soon as people get off free premium options, there is more money on the table to share. We try to create a service for music lovers. Music lovers pay for music.
How many subscribers are you anticipating?
That’s a business question you will have to direct to our Head of PR.
Will the Beatles catalog be added at some point?
I certainly hope so. My fear is that we see generations not having heard the Beatles from their label and management being too exclusive. I just heard Sgt. Pepper again for the first time in a long time. And it was great. I’d listen often if they were on TIDAL.
The subscription price shouldn’t be an issue for the audiophile community. Yet the other 95% of the market needs to buy in. How will you convince the general population to opt in?
There are a lot of audiophiles out there, but there’s also the general sound enthusiast and even more music lovers. We thought when we launched WiMP HiFi, TIDAL’s Scandinavian cousin, that we were reaching just audiophiles. We were totally surprised by how many people wanted to pay for music and for getting music in the right quality. You can also see that our branding is not reaching out to the hardcore tweakophiles out there. It’s a brand that addresses everyone that’s seen a James Bond film and wants a Tesla. Right now it’s a masculine campaign, but we also know that there are just as many female music lovers out there, so this will also be addressed in coming campaigns.
Many feel that music should not be free. What is Tidal’s position on this?
Musical expression should be free. Access to recorded music and performances should not be, unless the artists want too. I hear a lot of great music made by my friends at Soundcloud for free. But they put it there to get feedback. So when that’s free, I am the product. My feedback is the product. Since I also run a little label and produce a lot of music – I know that in order to sustain a professional career, well, you have to get paid some. But I genuinely believe in the streaming model.
Tidal has a core corporate owner. Can you tell me more about the parent company?
Aspiro has been around for a long time during the mobile entertainment era of the late 90s, to download shops and then streaming with WiMP. WiMP launched five years ago and has a big standing in Scandinavia. So under Aspiro you find TIDAL, WiMP and a service called RADR Music News, that does syndicalisation of music videos and other video content. Aspiro is stock listed on Nasdaq OSX in Stockholm, but Schibsted ASA – one of the largest media corporations in Europe, owns a big chunk of it. Schibsted is huge on media houses and has been one of the few that has handled the transition to digital very well. They are also massive on classified media, running companies all around the globe.
Are there plans to add other high resolution formats such as 24bit/192kHz streaming and DSD?
We already showed this together with Lenbrook on Bluesound and NAD Master Series at RMAF in Denver in closed demos. FLAC streaming 88.2/24, 96/24 and even 192/24. You’ll also get some news soon that will make you all happy. But it might not be what you think.
How many subscribers would it take to make Tidal successful?
Again – talk to the people with the calculator. I’m an audio guy 🙂
Any other innovative things in the works that potential Tidal subscribers would like to read about?
Right now there is a big focus on our partner clients. And that is including both the software and hardware world. Our partner list has grown to include a lot of the largest names in audio. Frankly, sometimes I cannot believe I am in meetings or on calls with some of the people I meet. I have to pinch myself. Additionally, there are a lot of connectivity methods coming such as DTS Play-Fi, Google Cast, Qualcomm AllPlay and our own Connect-like output control. Together with the continuous work on our apps and clients, I think we will see very mature ways of streaming coming from TIDAL. I think we will have lot of fun at CES this year.
Pal was very gracious in answering my questions. So far, the Tidal service has been stellar. Issues with streaming are minor and usually appear in the evening when more users are using broadband. Quality has always been exceptional.
The recommendations from Tidal’s editorial staff have opened up a new world of music for me. I find myself listening to more new artists than before and exploring more current and engaging music. Everything from Mozart to Pitbull is available at the touch of my fingertips and is heard the way I enjoy listening high-resolution. The Tidal Wave has landed and is making a huge splash in the community.
Speaking on behalf of the Guru team and myself, we wish everyone a happy, healthy and fantastic holiday season. We are looking forward to providing many meaningful contributions to our community in the upcoming New Year.
A challenge for the month of December is to introduce a new piece of music to a family member or friend. Make it different and exciting but something that you’re simply enamored with. The gift of music is a lifetime of enjoyment.
Frank started his journey in high-end audio in 1978 and was quickly hooked. Frank’s passion for music and great sound reproduction is stronger than ever. His main focus is with high-end headphones and portable related gear. He is a regular Head-Fi.org contributor and is a co-founder of Headphone.Guru.