Steve Albini Says Tidal’s Sound Quality + Exclusivity Won’t Convert Listeners
Last year, Steve Albini -- the producer of Nirvana’s In Utero, the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa and countless other albums, as well as a musician himself (Shellac, Big Black) -- detailed why he isn't opposed to the rise of streaming services and the internet’s impact on the music industry during a conference in Australia. Now, he’s shared his thoughts on the arrival of Tidal.
Albini called Tidal a “budget version of Pono,” but he doesn’t believe the streaming service’s lossless sound quality will sway listeners.
“If you want your music to play at the push of a button, convenience is going to trump sound quality 100 percent of the time,” he told Vulture. While those who prefer convenience over quality will opt for Spotify’s free services, Albini also believes those who do want to invest in sound quality will always pick vinyl over streaming.
“It’s for the same reason that if you had a screen that displayed paintings in your living room, very few serious art enthusiasts would care for such a screen despite the fact that it might show you very high-resolution images of artworks,” he explained. “They want to own a piece of art that is a direct connection to the person who made it. Having an HD screen in your house that would display artwork might have a market, but it’s not the same market as people who are interested in owning art.”
Albini added that Tidal’s move toward exclusivity (Jay Z, Rihanna and Taylor Swift have all pulled their catalogs -- at least in part -- from Spotify and made them available on Tidal) won’t necessarily help its cause either.
“The for-pay services are deluding themselves by trying to establish a permanent monetization of something that’s in flux,” he said. “Creating these little streaming fiefdoms where certain streaming services have certain artists and certain streaming services have other artists is a crippled use of the internet. If the internet has demonstrated anything over the years, it’s that it has a way of breaking limitations placed on its content.”
Albini also argued that streaming services aren’t the end of the line, and it’s only a matter of time before a new, even more convenient technology comes along and replaces streaming.
And he isn't the only one who's skeptical of Tidal. While Jay Z's streaming service is posturing itself as the gold standard for both artists and listeners alike, some musicians aren’t convinced. Both Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Mumford and Sons’ Marcus Mumford recently criticized Tidal for not bringing indie artists to the fore of its launch.
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