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Jay Z Launches Tidal Streaming-Music Service at Star-Studded Event

Music impresario Jay Z has launched Tidal — positioned as an ad-free, high-quality streaming-music subscription service priced starting at $10 per month.

The rapper and producer was joined by several big-name artists including Alicia Keys, Beyonce (who is married to Jay Z), Chris Martin of Coldplay, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Kanye West and Madonna.

Jay Z, the stage name of Shawn Carter, in January acquired Sweden-based Aspiro for $56 million. The artists announced onstage at the New York event Monday were introduced as co-owners of the company, representing the first artist-owned digital-music service — a salvo lobbed against companies like Spotify and Pandora, which musicians complain don’t compensate them fairly. In a notable rift, Taylor Swift pulled all her songs off Spotify last year in a dispute over payment terms.

“Our goal is simple: We want to create a better service and a better experience for both fans and artitsts,” Alicia Keys said at the event. “We believe that it is in everyone’s interests — fans, artists and the industry as a whole — to preserve the value of music, and to ensure a healthy and robust industry for years to come.”

Of course, just because Tidal is backed by a bunch of music celebrities is hardly a guarantee it will gain traction in the highly competitive space. The company says artists will provide exclusive content on the service; but Tidal will not offer a free version of the service, which will inevitably hamper its ability to attract users.

Tidal’s mobile launch partner is Sprint. Other artists participating in the service include Arcade Fire, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, Jack White (formerly of the White Stripes) and Deadmau5. Tidal was launched with the hashtag “#TIDALforALL” — although, obviously, it’s only for those able or willing to pay at least $120 annually for audio and video content.

At the New York event, the assembled artists took turns ceremoniously signing Tidal’s “manifesto.” That reads, in part, “Tidal is an artist majority-owned company with a mission to reestablish the value of music and protect the sustainability of the music industry rooted in creativity and expression. … Our movement is being led by a few who are inviting all to band together for a common cause, a movement to change the status quo.”

The Tidal service will compete with other subscription-music services including Spotify and Apple’s forthcoming music-streaming service, based on its acquisition of Beats Music, which is expected to launch this summer.

Tidal’s standard-audio version (Tidal Premium) will be $9.99 per month and the high-def audio version (Tidal HiFi) will be $19.99 per month. Both tiers are free to try out for 30 days, according to the company.

Tidal says it provides a library of more than 25 million tracks, 75,000 music videos and curated editorial articles. The service is available across iOS and Android devices, as well as in Web browsers and desktop players, available in the U.S. and 30 other countries at launch. Tidal’s top-tier offering provides streaming quality at more than four times the bit rate of competitive services, according to the startup.

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