As I’m sat on my sofa signing up to the free version of TIDAL and setting an alarm on my phone for thirty days time labeled ‘CANCEL TIDAL SUBSCRIPTION’, I start to ponder what’s happened to the way we listen to new music.
Back in the day when an album had a release date you’d head to your local record store, buy the CD, rush home and stick it on your stereo. In recent years the way we listen to music has changed and most of us stream our music on sites such as Spotify. However, you can no longer go to Spotify or even the iTunes store and find all the songs you want.
Taylor Swift has arguably been the biggest artist in the world over the last couple of years but you won’t find her music on streaming services Spotify or TIDAL. In 2015 Taylor Swift, after taking her music off all sites, announced her music would now only be available to stream on Apple Music. In 2016 Rihanna released her latest album ANTI on TIDAL in what should be described as the worst album release of the decade. She released the album on TIDAL, then took it down before then putting it back up again for a week-long exclusive stint on TIDAL, before it getting a wider release. After this rather strange launch music fans were left confused on how and when they’d be able to listen to the new album.
This idea of only releasing albums to certain streaming services has been taken to a new level with the release of Kanye West’s new album The Life of Pablo. The album is only available on TIDAL and I don’t mean that TIDAL is just the only streaming service to carry his new album but, according to the man himself, it’s the only place you’ll ever be able to get this album. No CD’s or Vinyl’s in the shops no downloads on iTunes and definitely no plays on Spotify. However you can now stream it on Kanye’s website but who knows how long that will last. With TIDAL offering a free thirty-day trial, hordes of people (including myself) have been signing up to TIDAL for the sole purpose of being able to listen to The Life of Pablo.
Once those thirty days are up though, what does Kanye expect? People aren’t going to pay the £10 a month for TIDAL on top of the £10 they pay for spotify or Apple Music. So what are fans of the album going to do (and thousands are already doing)? They are going to torrent it. On Twitter and Facebook there are already thousands of people showing that it’s really not that difficult to illegally download the album and import it into their preferred streaming service. If more and more artists start having their own exclusivity deals with individual streaming services then music fans are going to be pushed towards torrenting music as apposed to streaming or legally downloading it.
It is unrealistic to think that people are going to have subscriptions to more then one service, even if it wasn’t expensive people like to have the music they like all in one place. When Spotify had the monopoly on streaming music, music fans who signed-up to Spotify had access to all the latest albums being released on the same service and all the back-catalogues you could want. But as soon as you add in competition people started to lose out, we’ve stopped having the access to the music we want and unless you’re one of the already huge artists making big money deals on exclusive releases, artists are also going to lose out even more then they already do as more and more are pushed towards illegally downloading their music.
Only time will tell what happens to streaming but so far if 2016 is anything to go by it looks like the situation is only going to become worse as more and more artists chose to only release music to one service. Should we all be going back to CD’s then?