And so, the Tidal wave came, the neon turquoise sweeping across the social media landscape. For all intents and purposes, it was clever enough. Within minutes of first seeing it, my newsfeed pulsated with the burning question of our digital day; “Why has Coldplay changed their profile pic to a colour?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “But Madonna’s changed hers, too.”
This same conversation played out across the globe. Something was up with a bunch of stupendously famous people. They were joining together in what was quite clearly to be some sort of unified digital campaign. But what the campaign was for, nobody knew. Unfortunately, when the answer materialised, the phenomenon’s cleverness exponentially vanished with our growing awareness. Did you remember that small music streaming platform that Jay-Z purchased? Me neither. But he had assembled a group of similarly out of touch megastars-come-entrepreneurs, and goddammit, they had come to not just take their music industry back, but to change life as we know it.
This would happen primarily because we would all be so inspired by their creatively directed faux-doco videos, we would hand over more money to them than we currently do to streaming services that are cheaper and actually popular (looking at you, reasonably priced spotify). And of course, we won’t. But hasn’t it been fun watching them wage their crusade, completely separate to the world us consumers live in – the real one – in the bizarre and fragile galaxy that is a popstar’s deluded imagination?
Something about higher sound quality (despite us rather clearly being in the era of access to high quantity of product over trivial concerns of product quality). Something about Rihanna’s horrible new single being available on the platform a few days before anywhere else (despite it being openly available on any torrent site). Something about how artists have been pushed to the background until Jay-Z and his rich friends joined their Shazaam rings together and turned the whole thing around.
“This is, like, the beginning of the New World,” mused Zen Master Kanye.
“This will change the course of history,” agreed his new Tidal boss, Jay-Z.
And by the end of the day, the world’s richest performer and capitalist-spritualist, Madonna (she sure does love a Revolution™), jumped on facebook to share with us the “wisdom” of her Rebel Heart™: “Nothing is free! Everything must be paid for by someone! This is universal LAW!”
And the thing is, underneath our sniggers, the truth of what they’re saying is completely lost. Some of it is true – underneath… well… all of “that”. Artists really have been strangled by a perfect storm of the kings of the digital distribution platforms, the digital “theft” of file-sharing technology, and, to be frank, a cultural shift that has reduced the importance of art to transient hits of mainstream escapism (sometimes in the form of music, but increasingly just in the phenomenon of celebrity that music may, or may not be, attached to). The suits control the art, and they have slowly killed it. They give the podiums to models who mostly couldn’t create art (or even sing) to save their empty LA souls. And people have shifted with it and obliviously consumed what modern culture dishes up for a (mostly online) transaction. If culture matters, then the world is sick. And a cultural revolution that plays in the very realm culture has been devoured by – big business – would be lovely. But look at who has got together to hold this revolution?!
Admittedly, on the one hand, it’s difficult to see another way; these people are the ones heading a stab at a new model ironically because they are rich and powerful enough to. And suffice to say, it is not the rich and powerful superstars who are suffering. Hello. But we’re all supposed to feel sorry for Chris Martin’s art? We’re supposed to sit there watching a sullen looking superstar DJ wearing a giant mouse head, and be moved by his creative restraints?
The bigger problem, simply in terms of messaging – or the messengers – is that at the end of the day, all these people are crazy. They’re crazy in a whole host of horrifying ways that have nothing to do with their ill-fated belief in Tidal. And that’s okay – they’ve been so famous for so long, we simply cannot expect Kanye et al to be in any way in touch with reality. People know this. They will give their stars frightening authority in dictating what to wear, what to eat, or how thin they should be. But they don’t listen to their silly revolutions. Even Bob Geldof has been reduced to knowing that a million people will show to a good line-up onstage but give not a second’s credence to the idea of saving the planet from anything at all. And musicians daring to sing about politics and societal issues are no longer canonised with Lennon and Co, but lynched en masse and even driven out of countries. Even if Tidal did hold any promise in a basic business sense – which it doesn’t – the Era of The Popstar Revolution is long gone. People do not look to Beyonce to change the world. And yet, Beyonce shrugged: “If everybody can see that this is from us, then it’s…. you know… done.”
Silly Beyonce. Tidal fails on both accounts. They’ve got nothing decent to sell – because they don’t have anything anyone wants (cheaper product). And while the marketing channels were theirs to own (they’re famous – we were happy to at very least take notice), the content they delivered, in sickly messianic tones, was a terrible, terrible idea. And not a single Yes Man with an MBA had the guts to tell them otherwise.
So, people will keep stealing their music, because it’s there and it’s free, until they are finally, actually, stopped. They will keep streaming music on spotify and youtube and soundcloud, because it’s cheaper and they don’t have Niki Minaj’s bank account. They will ignore these stars’ narcissistic rants about changing our world, until Jay Z and Co go back to making the records we get drunk to, because that, at the end of the day, is what they do for us. Tidal will be washed up in months.
by Aaron Darc