A major story that happened this year while I was away was that Prince moved all of his music away from online streaming services like Spotify, and moved them all to Tidal. Since then, Prince uploaded his newest album HITnRUN: Phase One there as an exclusive for about a week prior to it hitting the shelves. But then the kicker came. Not only did you get mostly the same content as what was on Spotify, but some of the out of print releases from his NPG Music Club were there as well. And each week there has been a “Purple Pick of the Week”. Sometimes it’s just a forgotten track like “The Ladder” being spotlighted. Others, a new track. To date he has released some new singles. There’s “FREE URSELF”, an upbeat rocker that really should have been on the album, and one of his better recent tracks. There’s a really good remix called “PRETZELBODYLOGIC RELOADED”, that I like a bit better than the original. Remixed by Josh Welton, it shortens up the wordy chorus portion and goes for a bit more electronic vibe. There’s “STARE”, which was his one rub-it-in-your-face track he let Spotify keep. This one is a throwback to his earlier days, even sampling “Kiss” and “Sexy Dancer” with a bit of a James Brown feel. And now there’s a new one called “IF EYE COULD GET UR ATTENTION”. It’s also a nice track that hearkens back to an earlier sound and has some talk box stuff going on in the mix. My one major gripe on these tracks, he has them peaked so loud that they are heavily distorted. That seems to be his thing these days. It’s strange to me that someone with such an ear for perfection thinks that’s okay. Also available in the shop is his “BALTIMORE” charity track from earlier this year, and un-segued single versions of “HARDROCKLOVER” and “THIS COULD B US”.
Someone noticed on one of the Prince Facebook groups today that Tidal now offers these in a download store, and the good news is you don’t have to subscribe to purchase the tracks. MP3 tracks run at $1.29, and FLAC uncompressed audio tracks run at $2.98. Albums seem to be priced based on the number of tracks.
Here’s my thoughts about Tidal as a service. I have been a longtime subscriber of Spotify. As you’ve seen, I have ongoing projects compiling and curating playlists on Spotify. Many of these include tracks that are not available for streaming. This enables me to not have to store too much on my phone, and yet have a lot of music available on the go. In addition to the massive amounts of purchases I make on CD, I really value this. I tried a trial subscription to Tidal. The price point is higher. Spotify has a free version with ads, or a paid version runs $10 a month. Tidal starts at $10 a month for mp3 quality, or for $20 a month, you get FLAC quality streaming.
Here’s the catches. The first is that Tidal does not allow you to mix tracks you own that aren’t available through Tidal into your playlists. For me, that’s a dealbreaker, since that’s one of the things I love most about Spotify. Second, high quality files eat up your data on your phone if you don’t have unlimited data. You can only stream high quality on Chrome. I don’t use Chrome. I shouldn’t have to just to use this one service. Third, when I do stream, there are little micro-dropouts here and there where there’s a refresh thing happening. So forget about “perfect” audio. When I compared availability of tracks, Spotify had more as far as catalog or older tracks. Tidal is trying to corner the market on exclusive artists like Prince, Taylor Swift and some of the “we aren’t being paid enough” artists. I won’t get into that long debate, but I seriously doubt most artists are receiving substantial amounts of money on Tidal that they weren’t getting on Spotify. My speculation is that Jay-Z (who is the largest share owner of Tidal) cut a deal with Prince up front. Regardless of the details, Prince has made up his mind that Tidal is the ONLY streaming service that matters. His new side projects or proteges are all there now… new Andy Allo music was premiered there, and Judith Hill’s album (which I’ve given up waiting for a CD release) is there. You can make up your own mind. But in the meantime, you can now purchase some of Prince’s newest music without having to subscribe.
The Tidal Prince store is located at http://tidal.com/us/store/artist/4847.