Three of the biggest pop music releases of 2016 have had one thing in common – they’ve all debuted on rapper Jay Z’s fledgling streaming service Tidal.
And unless you’re a paying member of the underwhelming and ailing streaming app, you won’t be able to listen to their music.
Kanye West’s album The Life of Pablo, Rihanna’s Anti and Beyonce’s surprise single ‘Formation’ were all exclusively released on Tidal.
Of course, given her husband’s central role in developing the service, it is widely expected that the entirety of Beyonce’s new album will also be released exclusively on Tidal.
While Anti has now made its way to other streaming services, much to the relief of millions of Rihanna fans, Kanye devotees are yet to benefit from a similar move.
Since Sunday (AEDT), West’s The Life of Pablo has been streaming exclusively on Tidal, potentially limiting its reach.
Before anyone can (legally) hear anything from the hotly anticipated album, they must hand over their credit card details to Tidal and sign up. Although they could take the offer of a free one-month trial.
Just make sure you remember to cancel the subscription before the month is up. Tidal’s basic subscription costs $11.99 per month.
But many technologically savvy pirates have found a way around Kanye’s Tidal roadblock.
Popular underground torrenting website TorrentFreak announced this week that The Life Of Pablo had been (illegally) downloaded more than 500,000 times.
That figure was reported only two days after the album was released. Almost a week since the hotly anticipated release, that figure is sure to have skyrocketed.
Tidal dwarfed by competitors
The majority of Tidal is owned by Jay Z and it claims to pay the most royalties to artists of any music streaming service.
It was launched in March 2015 to huge fanfare, boasting celebrity financial backers including West, Rihanna, Beyonce, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire, Alicia Keys, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Chris Martin, Calvin Harris and more.
However, while the music of Kanye, Beyonce and Rihanna is a major draw card for the streaming service, it still has a long way to go to catch its competitors.
As of June 2015, Spotify had 20 million paid subscribers. Unconfirmed reports this week said that poised was about to eclipse 30 million.
A further 55 million listen to Spotify without paying.
Apple Music has 11 million paid subscribers.
On the other hand, Tidal reported it had a comparatively meagre 1 million subscribers in October 2015.
This number was significantly boosted with Rihanna’s help. Since the release of Anti in January, Tidal has rocketed to the number two spot on the United States’ iTunes App Store.
It was number 147 before Anti was released, according to MacWorld.
Central Queensland University digital and contemporary music expert Brendan Murphy told The New Daily it was a bold but understandable move for these artists to be restricting their reach by only streaming on Tidal.
“The big draw for artists in the Tidal service is that the offer an artist something in the order of 1.2 American cents per stream – not a lot, but more than Spotify,” Mr Murphy said.
“The celebrity factor has affected the way the music and technology press has viewed Tidal, some seeing its launch as a cynical self promotion exercise.”
Mr Murphy said Kanye’s decision to release The Life of Pablo exclusively on Tidal was “practically begging” his fans to sign up for the service.
The move paid off for his best mate Jay Z, but others may not have the same luck.
“Whether many artists have the degree of social media presence and press attention to carry something like this off is uncertain,” Mr Murphy said.
Looks like it’s down to Beyonce to pull Tidal over the line.