It swept across social media this week with the hashtag #TidalforAll like the hyped up tidal wave that it is: some of the biggest artists in the music industry led by Jay Z coming together to “give” music fans- at $20 a month- another music streaming site in the shape of Tidal Music.

How many music streaming sites are there out there right now, and what gives any of them a USP- Unique Selling Point? 

Tidal’s one and only USP and asset is that it’s owned by Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Usher, Nikki Minaj, Kanye West etc and so has star power behind it. But so did Planet Hollywood and we all know what happened there.

The other question is, okay, these musicians own this streaming site, but who owns their music? If it’s music companies and music publishing houses, what’s in it for fans of an elite group of business people, first, artists second, who have already made billions out of royalties on record sales, billions through touring and billions through all manner of endorsement deals? 

How many music fans are there today who are so loyal to these artists- ageing artists without that loyal young fan base- that they will fork out US$240 a year to have the rights to stream their music? And what happens before the masters of their domains- the music and publishing companies- crash the party like Shylock demanding their pound of flesh, which will create another kind of tsunami comprising in-fighting as to who owns what, pricing, percentages and the “windows” for streaming music plus taking into consideration what deals these content owners already have in place with Spotify and other streaming sites? 

Apart from the news of the launch of Tidal, there’s not been too much written about what few realise is a Swedish company called Aspiro that has existed since 2013 and was bought by Jay Z for $56m in March along with WimP.

The most informative and questioning articles have come from Rolling Stone with, of course, the name-dropping American music industry blogger Bob Lefsetz weighing in with his two bits- though he makes some valid points despite the excessive need to impress.

 

 

For years, Uncle Bob has been desperate to be seen as a game changer in music. But how? By blogging to an ageing subscriber base and the same old same olds still milking the music industry for all its worth despite the Grim Reaper knocking on their door?

What about the music fan who couldn’t give a toss about businessmen and industry veterans like “Jimmy” and “Lucien” and “Daniel” and who sold what to whom for how much as the corporate wheels bulldoze their way to more golden geese are these facts: The net worth of the “hard done by” eighteen artists coming together to give (give?) music fans this tsunami of a streaming site with some supposedly “exclusive content” thrown in as another come-on is a paltry $2,043,000,000.

Now, in an Oliver Twisted bling blanged move, they want more by asking to be paid “fairly” for their work.

Isn’t all this complaining too little, too late and years after allowing the horse to bolt, and suddenly deciding to close the barnyard door along with Pandora’s Box despite the genie never ever going to get back inside?

Then there’s the rarely mentioned 2013 court case brought against Jay Z for just taking without any attempts at clearing the track and not crediting 78-year-old Swiss Jazz pianist Bruno Spoeeri for the sample that appeared on Magna Carta Holy Grail.

After eighteen months of wrangling, a settlement was made which was described as “stealing a grand piano and sending back one key in the post.”

This entire sad case was quickly quelled during the Blurred Lines/Gotta Give It Up ruling and the confusion that it has caused- and just before Jay Z led his poor old artists in their fight against the windmills for “fair pay.”

If Tidal wasn’t headed up by Jay-Z and the massive power he and his missus wield over other musicians, this whole silliness would have drowned before even surfacing.

It still will as it’s a flawed idea and music fans today look at business musicians differently; they are viewed suspiciously with that old hashtag of “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

Over the years, with documentaries like “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” and “20 Feet From Stardom”, we have seen how great musicians have been sucker-punched by big business and given too much passion and creativity for way too little of an ROI. Or rightful credit.

More recently, there have been all the charlatans who have conned naive and younger musicians into giving up their art and time for free in the name of “promotion” while these little piggies George Harrison once sang about ran all the way to the bank going, “Wee wee wee”.

Music matters to these businessmen? Of course not. Nothing matters other than their bank balance for these various hit and run opportunities, especially in the sub-continent.

It’s nothing personal, it’s simple survival. If these opportunists could only admit this instead of hiding behind lines like “saving the music”, paying those who don’t need the money to listen to them “share their experience” (seriously now), and dangling that decades old carrot that’s always been a loada old crock- “You will be playing in front of some of the biggest names in the music world”- and for free- they might win me over.

There are still “big names” in the music world? Where? Who? Bono? Jay-Z? Paris Hilton? Sandy Monteiro, the Village Idiot?

Until there’s some honesty and coming clean, I’ll keep banging on and on and exposing them and their gullible sycophants in the way Taylor Swift turns into a musical bunny boiler every time she gets dumped and writes about how John or Harry or whoever has broken her achy breaky little heart.

Where things have gone wrong and created a division within the ranks has been the greyness between the music business and the business of making music. 

No one is in something to do anything for free. That’s not how a two-way street works.

This one-sided way of having one side take it all and dupe the other side is as nauseating and cringeworthy as watching judge Mel B- she can’t do anything and she’s a JUDGE???- going on about “Girl Power” on the truly unwatchable “Asia’s Got Talent.” 

Like that television shtick with some over-the-hill judges and a Freemantle Media producer’s idea of “Asian talent”, something is weirdly off-kilter when it comes to the business of making music. 

Like those who need charts to cover Pop or Rock or Folk music instead of this music coming from the heart and soul as it did for  its originators, there are way too many unnecessary barriers and trap doors with legalese in the way.

It restricts the creative process, it creates musical menopause, and it doesn’t offer a future to those creating new music and wishing to have this music heard through a platform and delivery system that does not discriminate and where we’re all sharing our art on a level playing field where everyone is paid equally. 

Hans Ebert
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc and Fast Track Global Ltd
www.fasttrack.hk

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