From pop artists to the media to Twitter, everyone seems to have an opinion on Jay Z‘s Tidal, Spotify and music streaming in general. But despite the ensuing clamor, we haven’t heard as much from the independent music community on the streaming service wars (Grimes did defend Tidal on Instagram, but has since deleted the post).
Wait, streaming service wars? Isn’t that a little too far? Of course. This needn’t be a war — the Internet isn’t a Hollywood Western. This town is big enough for two top guns.
Regardless, the Internet loves a good dogfight. And to that end, the producers behind the indie hip-hop compilation When Music Worlds Collide decided to put their release to the Tidal vs. Spotify challenge last week and see which one better served their album.
Keep in mind that while this release features some notable names — Kxng Crooked, Wu-Tang Clan‘s Inspectah Deck, Royce Da 5’9″ and Kanye West protégé Cyhi da Prynce — it isn’t a major label release with an expensive publicity push behind it. So a streaming service’s attention can have a significant impact on its shelf life.
In fact, it wasn’t even released to iTunes or Amazon (at least yet). “This album for us is about Spotify vs. Tidal, a streaming battle only. We did this release completely grassroots and independent,” When Music Worlds Collide co-producer Jonathan Hay said at the time.
A week later, Hay and fellow co-producer/SMH Entertainment co-founder Mike Smith declared a winner on Eminem‘s Siriux XM station Shade 45. Today, they’re sharing some additional thoughts on the “streaming service battle” with Billboard.
“I went into the Tidal experience a little skeptical because of some of the things I was reading in the media, which was completely misguided,” Hay says. “Tidal added that little tiny bit of extra brightness — a more rounded bass, made the mid-range a little crisper and crystalized the sound to perfection. Unfortunately, these details are stripped out of a song when the music is compressed into a lower quality file. We [as producers] didn’t invest all our time and resources into our music for it not to sound right. It’s all about the details.”
Additional, Hay was impressed at how responsive Tidal was when he contacted them.
“We reached out to both Spotify and Tidal to participate in this challenge. We weren’t expecting either to contact us back,” Hay says. “So I was surprised when Roc Nation contacted me about the criteria for our challenge. I explained our concept, and asked them to listen to our album. We got great feedback from them about the album, and then they featured it on their homepage under New Releases — which is staggering. Jay Z has put it out there that Tidal is about helping independent artists. We can say firsthand that’s true.”
While Hay is 100 percent sold on Tidal over Spotify, his co-producer, Mike Smith, is more measured in his take.
“Tidal makes an extra effort to promote new and independent artists. They definitely have a leg up on this over Spotify,” Smith says. “Jay Z said this would be a priority, and based on our experience, it is.”
He also agreed the sound quality in the pricier version of Tidal was superior to Spotify. “I compared [Tidal] to my computer file of one of our songs and the quality was almost insane. Streaming through Tidal sonically has really come of age.”
Regardless, he admits there are functionality advantages Spotify retains.
“It is hard to beat some of the functionality of Spotify’s app,” Smith says. “Every song you have every played remembered in a very long playlist starting with most recent down to first played. I love this feature because I tend to binge listen and this makes it easy for me to go back to my list of the day. And it is very intuitive in analyzing the songs you listen to and recommending artists and songs for you. I get bored on Saturdays and meander through Spotify’s web of artists similar to who I listen to, and I always find someone I haven’t thought about in a while.”
Smith’s opinion mirrors a significant portion of the public reaction to Tidal: Namely, Spotify is still the better user experience. At least, for now — it’s only fair to point out that Spotify has had more time to fine-tune its user experience. So perhaps if Tidal can start matching Spotify’s functionality, its superior sound will finally seem worth the price tag.