Jay Z recently purchased the streaming company Tidal for $56 million with his investor group. Tidal is owned by musicians such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Calvin Harris, J. Cole and more. Hov spoke with Billboard about why he got into the streaming business.
Read what he had to say inside:
Billboard: When did it first occur to you to get into the streaming business?
Jay Z: A year-and-a-half ago. We saw the movement and how everything was going and figured that this could possibly be the last music format that we see in this lifetime. We didn’t like the direction music was going and thought maybe we could get in and strike an honest blow and if, you know, the very least we did was make people wake up and try to improve the free vs. paid system, and promote fair trade, then it would be a win for us anyway.
Musicians have long complained that streaming has rendered music virtually worthless. It doesn’t sound like you’re solely driven by financial reasons, but also by a desire to reset the value proposition of music.
That’s correct, absolutely, and when I spoke to every single person involved that’s what I said. Music is … 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.
The list of your partners is going to surprise quite a few people. How did you get them involved? Was it as simple as going out and saying, “This is our chance to turn the tide against this thing that’s happening”?
Yeah, pretty much. I talked to everyone one on one about music and about what they would like to see in a service, and how would they like this to go. I wanted to know if they were willing to take a chance, since everyone’s names are attached and their reputations, too.
And I just believe as long as we’re on the side of right, and we’re in this for the right reasons, it will work. It’s just a big opportunity for everyone — not a thing that belongs to any one person. That’s not fair, that’s not a democratic process, and that isn’t the idea behind it.
Isn’t another of your goals to make sure the revenue makes its way down the food chain to content creators?
Definitely. 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. If you put in work, everyone else, you go to work you get paid. That’s fair trade. It’s what our country is built on.
So, Tidal launches today. Creatively, what do you hope happens, beginning tomorrow?
Artists come here and start making songs 18 minutes long, or whatever. I know this is going to sound crazy, but maybe they 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?
You have a long-standing relationship with Jimmy Iovine. Have you been in contact with him since the news has started trickling out?
Yeah, of course. 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.”