Why Jay Z Launched His Own Streaming Service

Jay Z
Jay Z relaunched his newly-acquired Tidal music streaming service on Monday with help from some of the world’s biggest musicians. Artists such as Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, Jack White, and Coldplay reportedly own an equal share of the company.
The ambitious project has raised eyebrows, with many wondering how Tidal can compete with behemoths like Spotify and the soon-to-relaunch Beats Music. After all, Spotify has 15 million paid subscribers, and Beats has Apple, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine behind it.
However, Jay explained in a recent interview with Billboard that his motives for the relaunch are not solely financial. It turns out that the multi-millionaire rapper has a bigger mission in mind. Here’s what we learned:
He believes music is undervalued.

“Imagine your life without music. It’s a very valuable part of your life, and like I said, that’s why we got in this business. It seems to be going the other way. People are not respecting the music, and [are] devaluing it and devaluing what it really means. People really feel like music is free, but will pay $6 for water. You can drink water free out of the tap, and it’s good water. But they’re OK paying for it. It’s just the mind-set right now.”

He wants writers and producers, not just artists, to be successful.

“For someone like me, I can go on tour. But what about the people working on the record, the content creators and not just the artists? If they’re not being compensated properly, then I think we’ll lose some writers and producers and people like that who depend on fair trade. Some would probably have to take another job, and I think we’ll lose some great writers in the process. Is it fair? No … I’m just saying the producers and people who work on music are getting left out — that’s when it starts getting criminal. It’s like you’re working hard and you’re not receiving. In any other business people would be standing before Congress. They have antitrust laws against this kind of behavior. It almost seems like when it applies to music no one really cares who’s cheated. It’s so disorganized; it’s so disconnected from reality.”

He says that Tidal allows artists to be more creative.

“I know this is going to sound crazy, but maybe [artists] start attempting to make a ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ you know, a song that doesn’t have a recognizable hook, but is still considered one of the greatest songs of all time, the freedom that this platform will allow art to flourish here. And we’re encouraging people to put it in any format they like. It doesn’t have to be three minutes and 30 seconds. What if it’s a minute and 17, what if it’s 11; you know, just break format. What if it’s just four minutes of just music and then you start rapping?”

He needs independence.

“We talked to every single service and we explored all the options, including creating a white label with a service. But at the end of the day we figured if we’re going to shape this thing the way we see it then we need to have independence. And that became a better proposition for us — not an easier one, mind you.”

However, he believes Tidal and Beats can both be successful.

“My thing with Jimmy is, ‘Listen, Jimmy; you’re Jimmy Iovine, and you’re Apple, and truthfully, you’re great. You guys are going to do great things with Beats, but … you know, I don’t have to lose in order for you guys to win, and let’s just remember that.’ Again, I’m not angry. I actually told him, ‘Yo, you should be helping me. This is for the artist. These are people that you supported your whole life. You know, this is good.'”

He says that artists will make more money from Tidal than Spotify.

“Will artists make more money? Even if it means less profit for our bottom line, absolutely. That’s easy for us. We can do that. Less profit for our bottom line, more money for the artist; fantastic. Let’s do that today.”

Related: Indie Artists & Labels Offer Streaming on Their Own Terms