“[The Life of Pablo] will never be for sale … You can only get it on Tidal.” I can’t help but laugh at this tweet from Kanye West as I listen to the album in question for the umpteenth time on Spotify. If you don’t know that you can’t take everything Kanye says seriously, you’re probably supporting the fan that is suing Kanye for releasing the album through other music services other than Tidal. He isn’t alone, since many fans feel like they were tricked into signing up for Tidal, which is a paid service that is severely lacking in areas in which Spotify and Apple Music excel.
Essentially, it boils down to another controversy when it comes to paying for music. Thanks to the internet, nearly every song by any artist is available for free … just not legally. Those who are fine with accepting the risks of downloading music illegally will never have to pay for a song again in their lives as long as the internet is still around.
At this point, saying Kanye should have released his album on other streaming services in the first place is beating a dead horse. It’s understandable that he wants to support himself and his friend/mentor Jay-Z by releasing an album with so much interest through a service like Tidal, but suffice it to say, his good deed didn’t go unpunished. As of Feb. 17, The Life of Pablo has been illegally downloaded more than 500,000 times, according to the Independent. Considering that the album came out on Feb. 14, the album has probably gone platinum in terms of being illegally downloaded. Essentially, he lost a lot of money by pulling something like this instead of losing less money by putting the album on other services.
But even with platforms like Spotify, artists still lose money. Few artists come to terms with this and insist on avoiding streaming services that will admittedly make them less money than purchasing an album or individual songs.
Taylor Swift currently has bad blood with Spotify, effectively blacklisting them completely, but every song she’s made from her country days to the pop icon she’s become now is available to purchase on iTunes and stream on Apple Music. To put it bluntly, Apple can afford Taylor Swift; Spotify can’t.
It’s unfortunate for the fans that simply can’t afford her music, but it’s not a bad business strategy on Taylor’s end. The majority of her fans are likely willing to meet her halfway and just purchase the songs they love the most. As a result, some of Taylor’s songs don’t get as many plays as they would if they were on Spotify, but she decreases her risk of having her music illegally downloaded for zero profit. Also, as an international pop icon, she’s probably not too worried about her music not getting a lot of recognition. The people who suffer the most, however, are the Spotify subscribers who are law-abiding citizens that don’t want to download her music illegally nor pay for their music outside of Spotify. Spotify does a great job at catering to what their subscribers want in terms of music selection, but it’s not perfect. It might seem greedy, but it makes sense that artists don’t want to lose money on their music by releasing it through Spotify.
Those who are smart enough to recognize that trying to force something on their listeners that they don’t want, like subscribing to Tidal, could teach Kanye a thing or two, however. Hopefully Kanye learned his lesson through this failed experiment because trying to get people to subscribe to an exclusive service that almost nobody wants doesn’t always pan out well. Having his album likely go platinum without seeing a dime isn’t the best look on his part, and backtracking on saying he will never release the album on any streaming service that isn’t Tidal only hurts the people who would actually be willing to buy his album: his fans.