Tidal: Will Jay Z's new venture really be music to our ears?
The rapper called on his famous friends to relaunch Tidal, his high-fidelity streaming service, but, asks Katie Wright, is it actually going to make any waves
As line-ups go, it doesn't get much bigger than Beyonce, Jay Z, Kanye West, Madonna and Rihanna. But when this megawatt musical quintet stood on stage in New York recently, it wasn't to perform. They were assembled - alongside another 11 top-drawer artists - to formally launch Tidal, the music streaming service acquired by rapper-cum-business mogul Jay Z (real name Shawn Carter) a couple of months back.
On the same day, a synchronised social media campaign saw some of the stars turn their Twitter pictures blue and ask fans to do the same with the message "together we can turn the tide and make music history".
So what is so historic about Tidal, then? The key USP of the £19.99 a month service is that it offers "lossless" audio, higher quality than that of major rival Spotify.
We already knew that (the service existed before Jay Z bought it), but now Tidal says it'll be offering exclusives from Jay and pals, like new album releases before they're available to buy or stream elsewhere.
The other major difference, they claim, is that Tidal is the first ever "artist-owned global music and entertainment platform".
The 16 stars at the press conference were named co-owners, which makes it sounds lovely, like the John Lewis Partnership of the music world, but when you consider those owners are all already frighteningly affluent then it's not quite as appealing.
The launch certainly generated a tsunami of social media coverage.
The hashtag #TIDALforALL was trending for 24 hours on Twitter. But then so was #TIDALforNOONE, along with a deluge of complaints from fans unwilling to shell out £240 a year if it's going to end up in the pockets of a bunch of multimillionaires.
It probably didn't help, either, that the press conference was, at times, downright weird. Alicia Keys led proceedings with a hyperbolic speech declaring "this is the beginning of a whole new era" and quoting Nietzsche, while the world's biggest attention-seeker Madonna lifted her leg and half-straddled the table as she signed her Tidal contract.
Experts piled in online, too, saying Tidal isn't the big bad Spotify rival it claims to be and questioning the motives of the co-owners.
The other thing is, studies show that most people can't actually tell the difference between high-definition and normal audio.