Over the weekend, Kanye West went on a mini diatribe against streaming exclusivity, urging Apple Music to "give Jay a check for Tidal." He claims an Apple vs. Tidal "beef" is "fucking up the music game" and we should just "let the kids have the music."
Kanye is right, streaming exclusivity and windowing is anti-consumer, but is he really the best messenger? Five months ago, West released his latest album, The Life of Pablo, as a Tidal exclusive. After what was arguably the worst album release in modern music history, West told his fans the album would never be available anywhere but Tidal.
Of course, six weeks later the project was made available for stream on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube.
To recap: an artist who's fresh off a super-duper-mega-exclusive release wants Apple Music to purchase the streaming company that he has a minority ownership stake in. This actually makes perfect sense. If Apple Music acquires Tidal, the music consuming public won't have to subscribe to two streaming services that cost (minimally) $9.99 per month to hear all their favorite music upon release. Since Spotify has so far refused to jump into the exclusive music war, there would effectively be only one place to stream all the new music from today's most popular artists (Drake, Kanye, Beyonce, The Weeknd, Rihanna, etc...).
But let's not say this about the kids, Kanye. Children, who are the core demographic for all streaming services, aren't flush with disposable income. The reason YouTube remains the most popular place to stream music is because it's available for free. Sure, paying for one streaming service every month is less expensive than paying for two, but millions of kids (and their parents) can't even afford to pay for one.
If the mission is to really let the kids have the music, than give it away for free. There is plenty of evidence that suggests releasing free music can be a winning strategy both for mainstream superstars and up-and-comers. Ultimately, though, Kanye's tweets aren't rooted in pleasing fans. This is about business. This is about Apple forking over hundreds of millions of dollars in order to become the undeniable, go-to streaming platform and taking market share away from Spotify.
By DJ Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter
Art Credit: vadivisuals