“What is TIDAL?” You might be surprised to learn that the TIDAL Music streaming service isn’t new, but there is a flashy launch complete with music superstars promising exclusives for the platform owned by artists.
Over the last several months we’ve seen several important exclusives arrive and the latest is Lemonade, the new Beyonce visual album that premiered on HBO. This comes right after Kanye’s The Life of Pablo and Rhianna’s Anti albums.
Related: Apple May Buy TIDAL
The collection of exclusives, helped push Tidal to the number one free app on iPhone earlier this year and Lemonade has it back in the top 10, but it’s not clear how long that will stick.
Especially now that Lemonade came to iTunes just a day after the Tidal launch.
Here are five things you need to know about the new TIDAL music streaming service, including why there is a $19.99 a month option and how the TIDAL vs Spotify comparison shakes out.
TIDAL was all about a Hi-Def or Lossless music experience, but with the relaunch and major push today the company offers a half price option to directly compete with Spotify — in hopes of luring consumers with exclusives and HD music videos without the high-end lossless Hi-Fi sound.
Before you cancel Spotify or sign up for TIDAL, here are five things you need to know about the services.
What is TIDAL?
TIDAL is, or at least was, a destination for subscribers who want to listen to music at higher quality than you find on Spotify. The service that includes Lossless High Fidelity music is $19.99 a month — double Spotify.
The TIDAL Premium offering is $9.99, but it does not include the Hi-Fi lossless music quality. At this price users still get access to the curated playlists and to all of the music and HD music videos. here’s a list of what TIDAL offers.
- More than 40 million music tracks
- Lossless sound quality (FLAC/ALAC 44.1kHz / 16 bit – 1411 kbps)
- More than 75,000 music videos
- Curated Editorial provided by experienced music journalists and industry experts
- Dedicated apps available for iOS and Android phones and tablets
- Web player for PC/MAC
Subscribers can expect exclusive content, access to rough tracks, studio sessions and yes a place to buy merchandise.
There is a $1.50 discount on the TIDAL premium option per month if you pre-pay for six months. There are also family plans that offer a second user for half price, a student plan for just $4.99 a month and a military plan for $5.99 a month.
TIDAL vs Spotify
Here’s where things start to get a little odd. TIDAL is billing itself as the place to go for great sounding music, but if you use the new TIDAL Premium offering your music will not stream anywhere near what Spotify offers.
TIDAL Premium includes “Normal quality” at 96 kbps (AAC +). Spotify offers the 96kbps option as normal quality on Mobile, but also offers a high quality 160kbps with the free version of Spotify. When you pay $9.99 a month for Spotify you can stream at 320kbps “Extreme quality” for better sounding music.
Of course if you pay for the high-end TIDAL Hi-Fi at $19.99 a month you gain access to 320 kbps (AAC) and to Flac 1411 kbps – Lossless (16 bit/44.1 khz), but that’s only with the higher rate.
TIDAL and Spotify both offer iPhone and iPad Apps, an Android app and the option to play from the web. There is a desktop Spotify player, and now there is a PC and Mac TIDAL desktop player in beta. Both services offer an offline mode and a free trial.
Spotify offers over 30 million songs and TIDAL boasts 40 million. Of course this only matters if your favorite musician or group is missing. Both services connect to various home audio sources wired or wirelessly.
TIDAL Isn’t on Windows Phone
Spotify offers a Windows Phone app and just added support for the PS4, but you won’t find TIDAL on either of these services. TIDAL offers the following explanation;
“We thoroughly examined the possibility to bring TIDAL to the Windows Phone. At this time it is a feature that we have decided to forgo, so we can focus on the platforms that have the greatest support. We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause. With the continued developments of the Windows Phone, we will be revisiting the idea to bring TIDAL to the Windows Phone.”
If you love Windows Phone, TIDAL is not for you. The TIDAL team is working on a Desktop app for Windows and Mac with a beta available now.
TIDAL makes a big deal about curated playlists from artists and music journalists, but this is not something exclusive to TIDAL. Apple Music offers curated playlists and Spotify also offers a lot of curated playlists from insiders, publications and from music-savvy regular users.
As Consequence of Sound puts it, there are other sources for playlists and the celebrity endorsement doesn’t carry as much power as the artists think it does.
“Celebrities? Most people aren’t going to pay top dollar because Rihanna told them to. We know most, if it not all, of the people on that stage were Jay Z’s friends, and we’ve seen enough “Android spokesperson using the iPhone” pics to know that people pretend.”
You may not get a Jay-Z curated playlist on Spotify, but will the average user care that much?
HD Music Videos & Exclusives
Spotify doesn’t offer HD music videos in the app, but there’s another free app on every iPhone and Android device that supports HD music videos without any fees. YouTube includes music videos in HD quality for the hottest music and for indie music as well.
So far TIDAL artists have not removed music from YouTube or VIMEO to put it behind a paywall, but new music videos are showing up exclusively on TIDAL for a period. Typically within hours the new music video is also on YouTube from someone who downloaded the file.
In the press release TIDAL is described as, “a single destination for artists and fans to share ideas, exclusive content, songs, videos, studio sessions, rough tracks, personal conversations and more.”
Exclusive content is great to an extent and Spotify does offer some Spotify Sessions that may be similar to some of the content, but if the exclusive content is that good it will likely continue to appear on YouTube and other services quickly.