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Jay Z Touts Artist Ownership At Tidal Streaming Music Service Launch

NEW YORK (Hypebot) – Jay Z unveiled his newly purchased streaming music service TIDAL at a star studded event in New York City on Tuesday afternoon. As expected, the emphasis was on exclusive content and higher sound quality, but artist control and ownership were also a key part of the message.

"Right now they are writing the story for us. We need to write the story for ourselves," Jay Z told a secret gathering of top tier artists dubbed "The Avengers of Music" during Grammy week in February. Today he began to make good on his promise with the relaunch of TIDAL, the European based streaming music service that he just purchased for $56 million.

While short on details, today's TIDAL launch put artists front and center. Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj. Beyonce, Jack White, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Usher, Daft Punk, deadmau5, J Cole, Jason Aldean, Calvin Harris and Jay Z himself all strolled onto the stage in New York City signing a joint "declaration" marking the relaunch of the music streaming service.

The First Artist Owned Streaming Music Service

After a brief introduction, only Alicia Keys spoke to the press. "We stand before you today, unified, introducing TIDAL – the first ever artist owned music entertainment platform," she said in a prepared statement. "Our mission goes beyond commerce and technology… our intent is to preserve music's importance in our lives. It's the world's true universal language."

Each of the artists on stage received a 3% stake in TIDAL in exchange for exclusive content, sources tell Billboard. How TIDAL exclusives will coexist with existing recording contracts remains unclear.

Also unclear is just what "artist owned" will mean for the tens of thousands of working musicians who increasingly rely on income from streaming. Will TIDAL offer them a better deal and more control; or are those privileges reserved only for Jay Z's handpicked club?

Beyond the exclusives, TIDAL looks and feels much like Spotify and other streaming music services. It does offer video and hi-def playback for $19.99 monthly, in addition to the standard $9.99 tier. And comments during the introduction and by Keys hint at enhanced offline playback and other technical enhancements. Unlike Spotify, TIDAL offers no free tier after a 30 day trial.

It remains to be seen if that plus some serious star power is enough to make TIDAL a hit.

The Critics

Jay Z's plan already has its critics. Just as the launch announcement began, two hashtags were trending on Twitter: #TidalForALL promoted by Jay Z and TIDAL and #TIDALforNONE, spontaneously created by his doubters.

Some are questioning creating a service that will further line the pockets of already hugely successful artists. "Multimillionaires coming together to bring awareness to a major cause! Their bank accounts." tweeted @nickkpisano.