Kurt Hanson: End the Suffering

Music industry pundit Bob Lefsetz, in a P.P.P.P.S. to a recent “Lefsetz Letter,” sent a link to a stunning YouTube video that will bring tears to your eyes if you have any compassion for the suffering of billionaire recording artists:

The underlying point of the video, of course, is that Jay Z’s new subscription music service, Tidal, was launched with spectacularly bone-headed messaging:  Asking consumers to pay twice as much per month (i.e., $19.99) as they would for Spotify, Rdio, or Rhapsody because it will help support billionaire recording artists.
Other problems with the Tidal approach include…
  1. Tidal’s other point of differentiation is that it streams at a higher bitrate than competing services. Unfortunately, Spotify (to use one example) already streams at a bitrate of 320kbps, which to the vast majority of consumers would be indistinguishable from LP or CD quality — or, for that matter, TIdal’s quality (which is purportedly 1,411kbps, but that doesn’t mean it sounds 4.5x better).  In fact, services like Pandora typically stream, at least for mobile, at a bitrate of 64kbps and most consumers are very happy with that.
  2. Tidal’s debut press conference implied that the superstar musicians involved would most likely provide exclusive access to some of their material to Tidal.  Unfortunately, the recording artists typically don’t control the copyright to their sound recordings — their label does!  And I’m not sure there’s any motivation for the labels to want to give an exclusive of any of their product to Tidal.
  3. The driving music industry force behind paid (as opposed to ad-supported) subscription services is that “free” music supposedly “devalues” music.  That’s absurd.  Did you think that “ER” or “30 Rock” were “devalued” by the fact that you could watch them for free (rather than buying them for $1.99 per episode or $40 per season)?  What’s more, how many downloads or DVD sets would have been purchased if the shows had not build fan bases by initially being offered for “free”?
At any rate, the YouTube video is fantastic and deserves to go viral.  Enjoy!

Kurt Hanson