What Is Tidal?

Three key areas separate Tidal from the rest of the music pack

Tidal is a subscription-based online music streaming service. Tidal tries to set itself apart by delivering higher-quality audio, HD music videos, and exclusive editorial content.

Tidal Ownership and History

The platform was initially owned by many high-profile artists, including Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Coldplay, and Calvin Harris. Square, owned by Jack Dorsey, acquired 80% ownership in 2021.

Despite Jay-Z’s claim that Tidal isn’t competing with anyone, the platform is essentially a competitor of Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. But there are a couple of things that set it apart.

Tidal concert

 Yvette de Wit / Unsplash

What Makes Tidal Different?

Tidal was the first music-streaming platform to offer high fidelity, lossless audio quality. This option provides a clearer and more defined sound by keeping music files whole and uncompressed. Its competitors, like Apple Music, have also started offering lossless (or "Hi-Fi") quality, and Spotify has announced its own plans, but Tidal has had this feature in place from the beginning.

Unsurprisingly, given that musicians own it, Tidal also believes in paying artists more in royalties. While Spotify and other streaming services also pay royalties, Tidal promises to pay a more significant share to artists.

Many of the stakeholding artists have also released exclusive content on the platform. For example, Jay-Z himself released his 13th album, 4:44, early exclusively to subscribers of the platform. Why is this a win for Tidal? Because if you only use Spotify to listen to music, you wouldn't hear this album for months.

Advantages of Tidal

Tidal provides several features and options that set it apart from its competitors. Here are a few reasons you might want to choose it.

  • Hi-Fi listening: Tidal's Hi-Fi and Hi-Fi Plus membership tiers provide lossless audio.
  • Direct-to-artist payments: Fans who want to support their favorite bands directly can tip them on the Hi-Fi Plus tier. The upper-level membership also features "fan-centered royalties," which calculate artists' payouts based on users' listening habits.
  • Exclusive content: Tidal promises more content that you'll only be able to hear on its service.
  • Free tier: If you care less about audio quality, you can access almost all of Tidal's library (with ads) via the free tier. This plan is only available in the U.S., but other countries can get a 30-day free trial period.

Disadvantages of Tidal

You should also consider areas where Tidal might fall short. These include:

  • Hi-Fi plans are for-pay only: You have to pay a monthly fee to listen to the highest quality music.
  • Quality costs: Not only do you have to pay more for Tidal Hi-Fi, the headphones you're using might not be able to reproduce the sound quality you're paying for. And, no, those earbuds that came in the box with your new smartphone aren't going to cut it.
  • High Data Usage: That higher-quality stream means you are using more of your mobile data plan. If you have a data cap, using Tidal Hi-Fi could mean that cap gets used up faster than you're used to, OR you'll have to up your data plan.

How Much Does Tidal Cost?

Tidal offers three plans, two of which require a monthly subscription fee. The platform also has discounts for families, students, members of the military, and first responders. You can view the current prices and discounts on Tidal's site.

  • Tidal Free: Access to most of Tidal's catalog with ads. The free tier is currently only available in the U.S.
  • Tidal Hi-Fi: $9.99 – Full catalog, no ads, the ability to listen offline, and recommendation features.
  • Tidal Hi-Fi Plus: $19.99 – All of the features available in the Hi-Fi plan, along with an option to pay musicians directly and increased royalties.
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