Prince and Why Selling Tidal is Selling Out
Mood Music: Slave to the Rhythm by Michael Jackson
One fine Saturday night after a very productive day, I was casually browsing Twitter when I saw a story that put a damper on my entire evening.
Kanye West had written a series of tweets prompting Apple to “hurry up and buy Tidal.” For those of you who don’t know, Tidal is a new music streaming company owned by Brooklyn Rapper Jay-Z with stockholders including a vast array of artist who are mostly African American.
I am a crazy music lover who doesn’t mind investing in the music I listen too. On top of a vast vinyl and cd collection I have two mp3 players, a cassette player with working cassettes (think I’m joking? Nope it’s not a game) and subscriptions to Google Music, Spotify, AmazonMusic and Tidal. Why so many subscriptions? Long story.
Anyway, I purchased the highest subscription to Tidal for two reasons, The High Fidelity sound and Prince.
My Story of Prince and Tidal
I am a Prince fan, but his music is basically impossible to find without playing a very strenuous and expensive game of fetch.
The man has nearly forty studio albums to date and he released some albums only digitally, one album through a newspaper, and one exclusively at a concert somewhere overseas.
He found genius ways to distribute his music so that he could profit directly for his genius. However, unless you were a working adult with a passport and a knack for reading the classifieds during the entire length of his thirty plus year career, you are out of luck as far as owning all of his music.
I always imagined I had years to pick bins at thrift stores, frequent eBay and Amazon, and travel the world to collect physical copies of his music- tragically I was wrong.
When Prince died, I wanted to hear more than the few 45’s, The Hits and B-Sides album, and a couple of digital tracks I owned. I wanted to hear his entire catalog start to finish as I’d always hoped for.
His music started pouring in on YouTube, but I wasn’t comfortable using that as an outlet. When he was alive I’d find an awesome song on YouTube before going to work then try to listen to it again later. But by noon he or his team would have already taken it down from the site.
Out of respect of his wishes, I wanted to at least stream his music for a fee. Once I found out that Tidal had control over most of Prince’s music, I brought my subscription that second.
Though Tidal doesn’t have every Prince song known to man, it has more of his music than I’ve ever seen in one place. It was bliss in the highest form to listen to Prince’s sweet voice for hours at a time.
Now you might understand my disappointment when I learned that Tidal might be sold to Apple- all my Prince playlists might dissolve in the company’s transition.
More than that, with Prince departed and his family feuding over the rights to his music, it would be weeks maybe years before his music would displayed on Apple, as it is tried up in litigation. Also it would be very possible that Apple could own Prince’s music.
My Anger with Tidal
I thought of the horror on Prince’s pretty face if he knew Kiss would be used on a toothpaste commercial and Purple Rain as the new Farmer’s Insurance theme song.
The music he fought for years to belong to himself as the artist, would now belong to a large conglomerate who doesn’t care about the sensitivity of the art as much as they care about the payday.
Gentle songs that lovers kiss to, children conceived to, people worship to- the value would be cheapened to Cream playing on an Oreo Cookie commercial. I was furious.
My anger wasn’t with Apple, because they are just trying to do good business, my anger is with Jay-Z and all the shareholders. They shouldn’t be so blind as not to see that the only reason Apple wants Tidal is because it is sitting on a goldmine.
Not only does Tidal own the rights to Prince’s music, they have big sellers like Beyoncé and the concept of high fidelity sound.
Hi-fi has become a word of antiquity in today’s modern music sphere. If you ever owned a vinyl album, I am sure you have seen this words printed on the right bottom corner of it. High fidelity sound is why people still collect vinyl. It is the purest form of sonically produced music.
No other streaming venue offers it. In my opinion, a lot of streaming apps sound horrible, but Tidal is really worth a listen. I was surprised when I initially heard the playback.
Why Selling Tidal is Selling Out
My anger with Jay-Z and the other artist who even consider selling Tidal is just this, selling tidal is not just selling out Prince but all black business.
There are just too few black owned businesses in the United States to sell a great product to another white owned company that is more than thriving already.
I know that in the business sense Tidal might not be breaking even, with a lower number of subscribers than the more established streaming outlets, but Tidal is a new business and the interface is very flawed.
On Tidal, you can’t always type in an artist’s name and find their entire discography off the bat and if you spell one word even remotely wrong you can forget about getting a decent search return. Also, on most phones you can pull down the drop down notification bar and skip, play, pause, or stop a song with other streaming apps, on Tidal you have to go to the actual app to perform these tasks which is inconvenient [Update: Problem has been resolved]. There are other little nuisances I can name, but all can be fixed easily and cheaply.
How does a small payday from Apple, now account for a larger pay day in the future? Little Blu Ivy and North and Saint West’s great, great grandchildren can be sitting on a fortune, because streaming music will never go away. Not only can it become potentially lucrative in the future, it can offer teens and young adults in the black community jobs and business experiences that will be beneficial for a lifetime.
I am still upset with Dr. Dre for selling Beats by Dre for the exact same reasons.
Even in my anger I realize that this matter is, “None of my business,” to quote the Kermit Meme, but it doesn’t stop me from being disappointed.
Truthfully, Apple would have to strike some type of master and expensive deal with Prince’s family, before the company could gain full control of his music.
The rush to own Tidal might just be a deal to gain more subscribers and not an artist’s music on Apple’s part, but why should Tidal take the risk? Why would artists want to sell out the art? Why would blacks want to sell out black business? And if one knows intellectually Prince’s entire life was a bravely fought battle to own his Masters and be sensitive about the way his craft was presented to the masses, how could anyone in good conscience just give something so precious away?
I will leave you with this quote by Prince from Ebony Magazine published about eight months before his tragic passing:
Tidal is a new company, its brand new. They’re just getting their footing, and I think when there’s a company like that, or the OWN network—situations where we finally get into a position to run things—we all should help. It’s been a lot of fun.