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Indie Musicians Are Not Sold On Tidal And Its ‘New School Plutocrats’


Mumford & Sons

Despite all the big stars coming out for the celebration of Tidal the other day, not everyone is happy with it, and not everyone thinks that it will ‘forever change the course of music history’. A few artists have just expressed their discontent about the streaming service and among them the very popular indie act, Mumford & Sons. Speaking to the Daily Beast, Winston Marshall denounced the hypocrisy of the wealthy-artists-owned streaming service:

‘We wouldn’t have joined it anyway, even if they had asked. We don’t want to be tribal. I think smaller bands should get paid more for it, too. Bigger bands have other ways of making money, so I don’t think you can complain. A band of our size shouldn’t be complaining. And when they say it’s artist-owned, it’s owned by those rich, wealthy artists.’

And he even goes to the length to call them the ‘new school fucking plutocrats.’ Good for him!

‘We don’t want to be part of some Tidal ‘streaming revolution’ nor do we want to be Taylor Swift and be anti-it,’ he continues. ‘I don’t understand her argument, either. The focus is slightly missed. Music is changing. It’s fucking changing. This is how people are going to listen to music now—streaming. So diversify as a band. It doesn’t mean selling your songs to adverts. We look at our albums as stand-alone pieces of art, and also as adverts for our live shows.’

‘What I’m not into is the tribalistic aspect of it—people trying to corner bits of the market, and put their face on it. That’s just commercial bullshit. We hire people to do that for us rather than having to do that ourselves. We just want to play music, and I don’t want to align myself with Spotify, Beats, Tidal, or whatever. We want people to listen to our music in their most comfortable way, and if they’re not up for paying for it, I don’t really care.’ What does he mean at the end, that I can download his music for free?

Marshall is not the only one slamming the new streaming service, Death Cab for Cuties’ Ben Gibbard also spoke to the Daily Beast, which has definitively all the juicy interviews. Ben is definitively in Marshall’s camp on that one and he has harsh but very just words to say about Tidal:

‘If I had been Jay Z, I would have brought out ten artists that were underground or independent and said, ‘These are the people who are struggling to make a living in today’s music industry. Whereas this competitor streaming site pays this person 15 cents for X amount of streams, that same amount of streams on my site, on Tidal, will pay that artist this much. I think they totally blew it by bringing out a bunch of millionaires and billionaires and propping them up onstage and then having them all complain about not being paid. There was a wonderful opportunity squandered to highlight what this service would mean for artists who are struggling and to make a plea to people’s hearts and pocketbooks to pay a little more for this service that was going to pay these artists a more reasonable streaming rate, and they didn’t do it. That’s why this thing is going to fail miserably.’

I secretly hope for a failure too, these people are just too pompous, all these arrogant rich people claiming they are going to ‘change the course of music history’.

But what does veteran music industry Steve Albini thinks about all this? He was interviewed by Vulture and called Tidal a ‘budget version of Pono’… ‘if you want your music to play at the push of a button, convenience is going to trump sound quality 100 percent of the time.’ And by experience, I agree with him, young people are not that preoccupied by sound quality, they listen to music on their computer speakers which are not the greatest very often… Plus he may has another valid point about people preoccupied with “lossless sound quality’, he says that they will always prefer to own vinyl: ‘It’s for the same reason, that if you had a screen that displayed paintings in your living room, very few serious art enthusiasts would care for such a screen despite the fact that it might show you very high-resolution images of artworks. They want to own a piece of art that is a direct connection to the person who made it. Having an HD screen in your house that would display artwork might have a market, but it’s not the same market as people who are interested in owning art.’

Is Albini’s metaphor working? Does streaming music the equivalent of the HD screen displaying an artwork? May be, but is the young generation still interested by ownership in terms of music? Probably a part of it still is although a lot of them are just streaming.

But Albini has another very good point:

‘The for-pay services are deluding themselves by trying to establish a permanent monetization of something that’s in flux. The internet provides access to materials and things. Creating these little streaming fiefdoms where certain streaming services have certain artists and certain streaming services have other artists is a crippled use of the internet. If the internet has demonstrated anything over the years, it’s that it has a way of breaking limitations placed on its content.’

So Jay Z is delusional? Did he really think that Beyonce and Rihanna’s exclusive videos would stay exclusive? As a matter of fact, Vulture reports that these exclusivities were immediately available through other sources… can’t people understand that the internet is a collective source, where nothing stays exclusive for more than an hour or two.

John Vanderslice also gave his opinion on the Tidal matter via Noisey, and this is a bit unexpected for a musician:

‘I highly encourage everyone to Bittorrent records unless you’re buying records from independent artists. You should probably Bittorrent the new Rihanna record. [Laughs.] I bought the new Open Mike Eagle record on Bandcamp, and I was so fucking psyched to send this guy an email. It’s amazing! Listen, I think there’s great mainstream music. I never pick on big artists, but that’s the great thing about art. It’s so fucking democratic, man. You can have Yeezus come out which is one of the greatest records of the past five years, and then you can have some weirdo nobody match it in their bedroom. That’s art for me. So I won’t pick on the big people, but what the winners do don’t matter for me.’

So Vanderslice couldn’t care less and encourages pirating rather than paying for streaming, DCFC’s Ben Gibbard and M&S’ Winston Marshal believes Tidal is the Marie Antoinette of the streaming services, pretending to save music but really paying musicians already billionaires and ignoring struggling ones, while Albini thinks Tidal is just another useless ‘little streaming fiefdom’ and that at the end the promise of high quality sound will not save it. How many streaming services are there anyway? Way too many, offering more or less the same thing, give them a few years and natural selection will sort out the sole survivor.

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