Opinion: To Tidal or not to Tidal?

(Kayleigh Robinson/Ryersonian Staff)

(Kayleigh Robinson/Ryersonian Staff)

It’s Feb. 13. While other people faced Valentine’s Day-related drama I faced an entirely different (and non-romantic) dilemma: whether or not to download Tidal.

For those who aren’t diehard Kanye West fans, Feb. 13 was the day his long-awaited new album, The Life of Pablo (TLOP) finally dropped. Unfortunately, for me, a law-abiding citizen, the rapper solely released his album on the subscription-based music streaming service Tidal.

I had already faced this to-download-or-not-to-download dilemma two days prior when I heard that the Yeezy Season 3 presentation at Madison Square Garden was being live streamed on Tidal. This presentation was the debut of not only his latest fashion line but also his new album. Thankfully it was streamed for free on the service’s webpage so I didn’t have to start the dreaded “30-day free trial.”  

No one really knew what to expect from the show. It ended up being a somewhat sedentary scene, featuring hundreds of extras sporting the new collection inspired by a 1995 photo taken by Paul Lowe of a Rwandan refugee camp. Kanye then became a living, breathing “pass the aux cord” meme. He played tracks from TLOP as well as new songs from affiliates like Vic Mensa and Young Thug. It’s safe to say what I heard, I loved.

There was much confusion as to when the album would arrive. Most expected it would be available right after the presentation. This rumour was quickly debunked when West tweeted that fellow Chicago artist Chance the Rapper wanted to fix the song “Waves”. The album was released after his Saturday Night Live performance while I was nestled all snug in my bed.  

At first, I thought it might be released a few days later, like Rihanna’s release of Anti the month before — especially considering Kanye’s adoration of Steve Jobs — but ‘Ye made it pretty clear that it would only be available on Tidal. This is when I knew I would have to do the unthinkable. I would have to start my free trial.

The end of my free trial is fast approaching, so once again I am faced with a dilemma to either continue to pay for it or cancel my subscription. However, I already have a paid Apple Music subscription and the free desktop version of Spotify, so it is unlikely that I’ll continue my relationship with Tidal.

If you’re in the same boat as me, you’re in luck. I decided to make a definitive ranking of the holy trinity of streaming services: Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. It’s based on four categories: ease of use, treatment of musicians, aesthetics and catalogue.


Like 90 per cent of the world, I am an iPhone user. For me, Apple Music is the most convenient because it’s already built into my music app so I didn’t need to clog up my phone’s storage with another app. I also like the three-month free trial versus the meager 30-day free trial that both Spotify and Tidal offer. This gives the user enough time to figure out how to use the program and see if they like it before paying for it. The layout of both the mobile app and the desktop version is very simple as well. It features a search bar at the top, tabs with recommended playlists based on your taste and search history, new music, beats radio (the 24-7 radio station exclusive to Apple Music) and Connect, a unique section that links fans to news about their favourite artists, including tour dates, interviews and music videos.


Rapper and business mogul Jay Z acquired Tidal in Jan. 2015. You may remember the press conference announcing the re-release of the service that featured Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, and many more mainstream artists. These musicians were the co-owners of the service and because of this, the royalties paid to artists are over three times higher than those paid by other services. According to Tidal’s official Twitter account, the streaming service pays the highest royalty percentage of any current music streaming company. Spotify on the other hand, has received flak from musicians like Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke, who removed their music from the streaming service due to small royalties.


As one of those annoying people whose favourite colour (sorry, shade) is black, I’m partial to Tidal. I also like the circle on the play screen as opposed to the line used by other services. For those who like colour though, Apple Music is probably the best. The colours adapt to match the album or single artwork, which looks pretty fantastic. What I don’t like about the look of Apple music is the fact that they use a random photo of the artist and you can’t change it.


Although Tidal does have The Life of Pablo and other exclusive content from some of the top artists in mainstream music, it definitely lacks in content. For example, I was shocked upon searching Dr. Dre on the streaming service (after scrolling up and down frantically in disbelief) that they didn’t have his classic album The Chronic. I’ve also had a few issues with searching and finding no results on Apple Music. If you’re looking for a service with a wide and diverse collection of music, Spotify is probably best.

Based on these categories, decide on what’s more important to you and subscribe to whichever service suits you. Keep in mind that Spotify operates on a “freemium” basis, that means you have the option to pay the $10 monthly price for the premium version, which has no advertisements, improved audio quality and downloadable music for offline listening. All of these services offer free trials, so if you’ve been living under a rock and don’t have any of them, you can try before you buy. Hopefully this saves you from any music streaming service dilemmas.


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