Jay Z launches new streaming service, Tidal: How does it fare against Spotify, Deezer and Rdio?
Music mogul Jay Z has entered the saturated music streaming market with his new service, Tidal, which launched to much fanfare on Tuesday (March 31).
Along with 16 artists including Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Madonna, Daft Punk (robot helmets included) and Alicia Keys, they announced a platform that is "owned by the artists", according to Jay Z.
In a rather awkward press conference where the 16 artists simply stood there and signed a "declaration", the host Alicia Keys said: "We come together before you on this day... with one voice in unity in the hopes that today will be a moment that will forever change the course of music history".
They didn't give much details so we aren't sure how another streaming site will change the course of music history.
It's been said however that Jay Z's service could give higher royalties than other similar services - most notably Spotify, which has been criticised for its measly pay out.
But how does the service compare to Spotify, Deezer and Rdio, which are some of the bigger names in the market?
Disclaimer: This reporter is a staunch Spotify user.
Its home page is frankly very clunky, especially on my iPhone 5 screen. It seems that the new app is keen to show
off all of its content - from videos to playlists to new tracks. And it is overwhelming for me - especially when the
content is underwhelming. (Its "exclusives" are actually old interviews, some dating back more than 10 years ago).
Everything is clean in Deezer, which is what I like. It shows you its “picks” on its first page - and after that, it’s
up to you to explore through its radio channels. It is also very swipe-friendly.
I loved Rdio - simply because it personalises everything. It's 'home page' says "Welcome Home, Jennifer". And immediately gives me a station based on music I've listened to or liked on the app. Everything is also very simple and intuitive. It doesn't have the need to 'show off'.
I've been using Spotify for so long that I realise I didn't even know what the 'Home page' is. Well, there isn't. Not on the iPhone app at least. It simply continues my last session, which I appreciate. It's always a seamless experience. I have to go to the 'Discover' and 'New' release page to browse around.
If you are looking to discover new music, which is important for me in a streaming service, this might not be the service for you. For example, if you are looking at an artist's profile, related artists are all the way at the bottom. The problem with Tidal, in my opinion, is that it feature its 16 partners so prominently that it gives less space to nice but non-mainstream artists. It makes me feel like this is an app that wants to make rich musicians richer.
I love how easy it is to discover new music with this app. As soon as I launch the app, it invites me to 'start the flow' - which just plays random tracks - all of which I just happened to love. I'm not sure if they took data from my Facebook account (which I used to link to the app) but the recommendations were spot on. Deezer also has their picks, where editors present a short write up of albums they think we should listen to. From pop singer Kelly Clarkson to singer songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr, everyone is sure to find something they like.
Rdio is also fantastic when it comes to music discovery - and it's also a lot more interactive than the other apps here. First, it takes my Facebook likes and immediately comes up with a 'radio station' with favourite songs and, if I feel adventurous, they include artists that I may not know but could possibly like. There are also comments on albums from other users, an aspect that I love, because it allows me to discuss albums and it feels more like a community.
As a regular user of Spotify, I thought its ability to recommend music through its 'Discover' tab was great. After all, it gives me several recommendations based on music that I have listened to. And they are usually very spot on. But after using Deezer and Rdio, I feel it would be great if discovering was more integrated as opposed to a separate tab. And its playlists are also great in that it allows you to follow the ones from noted publications - making sure that new music just comes to you.
Tidal claims to have 25 million tracks and, well, that is pretty extensive for a relatively new app. Most new releases can be found on Tidal, like Rihanna's new song B**** Better Have My Money, which is not found on any of the other apps yet. Although when I tried looking for composer Max Richter's tracks, only one album was available, so that was a little disappointing.
Deezer boasts the largest music library comprising more than 35 million songs.
Rdio has 20 million songs in its library - although it could be better organised. A search for FourFiveSeconds under Rihanna's page didn't yield any results. You only find it if you search for the song title.
Spotify boasts more than 30 million songs in its library. But it also offers its own live sessions, and is very up to date with new singles and albums.
Tidal prides itself on its extremely high quality. And to be fair, there is a significant difference when I compared the same song across all the apps. Tidal, with its lossless quality, or super high quality track, is clearly superior to the rest of the apps when it comes to the sound. But honestly, you're probably listening to these streaming apps during your commute so do you really care if it's of extremely high quality? I don't. Especially because it involves a lofty price tag. It doesn't allow users to use it for free (but you do get a free trial for 30 days). The standard quality audio monthly subscription costs $13.98 while the monthly high quality streaming costs $27.98.
Deezer also operates by a freemium model where subscribers paying $9.90 a month will enjoy less ads, and the access to music offline and listen to music at a higher quality.
Listeners to Rdio can also use the service for free. Music lovers who want unlimited mobile downloads for offline listening - without ads - can pay $9.90.
Spotify uses three different streaming formats. One in 96kbs, which is what most would use on their mobile. The other two are 160kbps and 320 kbps. The desktop app automatically plays the highest quality. While the 320kbps quality is available for premium subscribers for $9.90, the other two are available for free subscribers too.
Honestly, when it comes to price, I feel that there is just one loser - and that is Tidal.
Tidal offers 75,000 music videos, editorial content by music journalists and curated playlists by artists as well as journalists. I had a preview of some of the curated playlists and frankly, it didn't impress me. Firstl, it bothered me a little that Beyonce's festival playlists included Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, Kanye West and Jack White. What do they have in common? They are all "partners" of Tidal. It also offers 'Audio search', which allows you to identify songs that you might not know the title of. So if a TV show plays a nice song but you're not sure what song it is, using this function would be useful.
Deezer has some nifty features too. They have events on their home page of artists who might be coming to town. And the aforementioned editor picks are useful as well. The app also has a lyrics function for some of its songs - particularly the more mainstream tracks - which is fun for some solo karaoke sessions.
My favourite Rdio feature is that you are able to comment on albums, and you can also read others' comments here. It's also a more social app. You can follow friends and publications - and it shows you what they are listening to on your homepage. And if you land on an album that has been listened to or favourited by someone you follow, it's clearly stated there - making it a powerful recommendation tool. My only issue here is that it is difficult to find the people you want to follow.
Spotify recently introduced the 'Your Music' tab that stores practically everything - my favourite tracks, playlists and, more importantly, recently played tracks. I listen to a lot of music so the recently-played tracks are a nifty reminder in case I forgot what a particular song was called.
I've been using Spotify since its launch, and have come to depend heavily on it (though I still buy music from iTunes). Spotify aids me in finding new music, which then allows me to decide if I want to buy the album off iTunes. But I found that Rdio (in my two days of using it) was much better when it came to music discovery, and it also allows me to be more social on the app, which I personally like. Tidal was, in my opinion, the weakest app. I have strong reservations about the app because it's costly and it doesn't help me in music discovery, which is important to me. However, if you are an audiophile who is also a fan of videos, and carefully curated playlists, this might be for you.
While Deezer did not win any of the categories, it's also a great app - it's great for music discovery and its music library is huge. But ultimately, Rdio won me over.