#TidalForThem: Why I'm Just Fine With Skipping Jay-Z's New Streaming Service

by Raisa Habersham

It seems money—and only money—can make Black celebrities unite for a “movement.”

The roll out for Tidal, the Swedish streaming service purchased by Jay-Z for 56.2 million, was presented to the public on March 30th as a music streaming service that granted songwriters, producers, and artists more money for their work.

The service has pricing points at $9.99 for standard use and $19.99 for HiFi audio quality use. The only thing that distinguishes the service from its competitors is its promise to deliver exclusive content to subscribers.

But while the musical Legion of Doom saw fit to present this as a movement their fans and casual listeners should support, they overlooked one thing: How does putting more money into their favorite artist’s pockets help the consumer?

According to an article published by The Guardian, streaming services on average pay artists between 0.05 cents to .69 cents. Tidal’s apparent competitor, Spotify pays .40 cents, but explicitly states on its website that royalties are split 30-70 with rights holders receiving the higher percentage.

“That 70 [percent] is split amongst the rights holders in accordance with the popularity of their music on the service,” the website states. “The label or publisher then divides these royalties and accounts to each artist depending on their individual deals. When we pay a rights holder, we provide all the information needed to attribute royalties to each of their artists.”

Judging from this, it seems the fight for artists’ payments lies primarily with the record companies.
But the worst part about Tidal’s rollout isn’t even the grandiose display of mega music stars complaining about not receiving adequate pay while being part of the one percent: it’s the overwhelming use of social media to influence monetary change in the same way the medium was used to influence social change with regards to recent black civil rights issues.

The call to for their followers to change their pictures to a pitiful sea blue was reminiscent of the blackouts for Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and the #BlackLivesMatter campaign spurred by the deaths of black men, women, and children at the hands of white police officers.

The charge to make Tidal a movement cuts deep, considering very few of the celebrities at the Tidal press conference have contributed their voices (or pocketbooks) to social issues affecting their fans, a large number of whom are black. Where were the tweets that between 2006 and 2012, during which there was an average of 96 cases involving a black person was killed by a white police officer? Where were the Facebook posts about how “stop and frisk” disproportionately affects black people? If you can ask for peace between Israel and Palestine, then certainly you can go visit Ferguson to get an understanding of the community.

But maybe it should come as no surprise that these celebrities are only interested in their bottomline.

Tidal was acquired by a man who boasted heavily about his measly one-fifteenth of one percent stake in the Brooklyn Nets, while trying to profit off of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This is also the same man who argued his presence was charity, likening himself to President Barack Obama.

And the company Jay-Z keeps isn’t much better: from Kanye’s dismissal of the black women who’ve supported him throughout his career to unarticulated thoughts on black feminism from Beyoncé—who is consistently hoisted as a pillar of black womanhood—both conveniently speak out against injustices to enhance their brand and essentially sell records.

No one is saying that black celebrities don’t do for their communities or even that all of the black celebs are guilty of disregarding the same communities that support them. Actor Jesse Williams is very vocal about the issues black Americans face in a country hell bent on disregarding them; J. Cole, also a co-partner or Tidal, does take the time to speak on black issues using his art, and has even visited Ferguson.

However what does it really say about wealthy black Americans who decide to pick an egotistical fight with the middle or small man – streaming services and consumers – in order to increase their percentage of the pie. How come they are not discussing how this “revolution” of music could benefit black indie artists—who usually struggle the most—looking to profit from their art?

Expecting black fans to support their financial ventures when they don’t support the real causes that affect our lives reeks of elitism and greed. It’s not #TidalForAll… It’s #TidalForThem. And I’m just fine passing on this quest to further their monetary gain.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Raisa Habersham is a regular contributor to For Harriet.

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